Nursery business owner with trees

Tucson Electric Power’s Trees for You program is helping draw more customers and sales to family-owned nurseries, stimulating the economy while increasing the community’s tree canopy.

Customers can order discounted shade trees through TEP’s website and then arrange to pick them up at local nurseries through the program.

The program has directed hundreds of additional customers to Harlow Gardens and Rillito Nursery and Garden Centers. The owners say many of the TEP customers had never visited, or even heard of, their businesses before picking up their trees.

After customers walk in, they often end up walking out with merchandise in addition to the trees.

Beth Hargrove, who owns Rillito with her husband, estimates that between 60 and 70 percent of Trees for You program participants make a purchase. The program draws about 30 customers per week to the nursery.

Program participants usually buy mulch or root stimulator, and some pick up larger trees or flowers.

“We’re kind of hidden over here, and we don’t do a lot of advertising,” Hargrove said. “It’s a way to get people familiar with us.”

John C. Harlow, owner of Harlow Gardens, said many Trees for You program participants spend time browsing, shopping or seeking advice in the lush gardens of his midtown nursery. John recently received an email from a TEP customer who complimented the store for providing a great experience.

“The more people we can get to experience our garden center, the better,” Harlow said. “Even if they don’t buy anything additional, they know we can offer advice.”

Both businesses have been run by families for three generations.

Harlow’s grandfather began the business in 1939 as a landscape architect downtown and later established the nursery at its current Pima Street location in 1957.

Rillito has operated on the northwest side for 22 years and was started by Hargrove’s parents. Her daughter and son-in-law also work there.

TEP’s Trees for You program was revamped last year when TEP began a partnership with Civano Nursery to operate the program. Civano reached out to the nurseries to ask if they would distribute the trees.

“We thank both Civano for asking us to participate and TEP for offering the program. It’s a fantastic program,” Hargrove said. “It’s nice to see our electric company doing good work in our community.”

TEPcustomers can buy up to three, five-gallon trees per year for $5 each through the program. Find out more about Trees for You.