Increasing demand for uses in growing food, wine
SANTA ROSA — A 5-year-old hydroponics retailer with two Santa Rosa locations plans to triple the size of its main store this spring after sales grew 50 percent last year and are on track to do so again.
A 16,500-square-foot building on 3.1 acres at 4180 S. Moorland Ave. by early May is set to be the new home of the largest Santa Rosa Hydroponics (707-584-9370, santarosahydroponicsandgrowsupplies.com) store. Owners and brothers Rick Barretta, 32, and Jason Barretta, 30, on Feb. 28 purchased the former Santa Rosa Hardware building in south Santa Rosa for $1.44 million with plans to transform the property into a hydroponics “superstore.”
The company started with a small store at 4880 Sonoma Hwy. (Highway 12). A year later, the current store and yard with 5,500 square feet of storage and retail space and plus two acres of yard for materials and equipment sales at 4130 S. Moorland.
At the same time, some of the store’s main suppliers — General Hydroponic of Sebastopol and Hydrofarm of Petaluma — have been expanding locally in recent years. General Hydroponics secured a large former OCLI warehouse in southwest Santa Rosa, and Hydrofarm expanded its warehousing.
Drivers of growth in hydroponics, which is growing plants in water or some other medium other than soil, are the simultaneous mainstreaming of cannabis for medical purposes and the “slow food,” “locavore” and related natural foods movements among consumers, producers and even winegrape growers. Because of the ability to reuse water with hydroponics, there also is appeal for those concerned about water conservation, according to Jason Barretta
“Our biggest customers are still from medical marijuana, but we are seeing more types of people,” he said.
For example, most of the visitors to the store’s booth at the Santa Rosa Home & Garden Show have been seniors without a connection to medicinal use, Jason Barretta said.
“People wanted to know how to grow fruits and vegetables,” Rick Barretta said, explaining why they started the business. “We saw it was a pretty big market for it.”
A 95-year-old customer on a river boating expedition Jason Barretta was leading several years ago gave him the idea for the hydroponics business. “Back in the gold rush, the people selling the equipment were the ones who got rich,” he recalled the man telling him.
Also building cabinets on the side at the time, he teamed with his older brother, a journeyman plumber and manager for plumbing companies for 15 years.
California’s medicinal marijuana law and a recent U.S. Department of Justice decision to forestall certain marijuana prosecutions have fueled demand for products that can be used to grow the plant indoors.
That said, the California Supreme Court last week ruled that local jurisdictions can limit or ban dispensaries.
To satisfy demand from the wine and landscaping industries, the new location has a larger yard and more storage, which will allow for a greater expansion into irrigation supplies.
“We started tapping into irrigation sales last year,” Rick Barretta said. “We have some pretty big companies buying from us.”
The brothers Barretta also have other ventures. The east Santa Rosa store currently is a U-Haul rental depot, and something similar is planned for the new hydroponics store. Six months ago, they started a transportation business that operates two buses and several chauffeured vehicles.
Santa Rosa Hydroponics has 15 employees and anticipates hiring another five within months of the opening at new location. A grand-opening event tentatively is set for May 10.
Kathy Schmidt of Coldwell Banker Commercial represented Randall W. & Zenna Roe Living Trust in the sale of 4180 S. Moorland.
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