Company & History
Over 100 years ago, Henry F. Michell started the company that still bears his name with a love of horticulture and a commitment to providing excellent products.
Born in Switzerland, Henry and his brother, Frederick J. Michell, came to the United States in 1870. As a young man, Henry began working with the Henry A. Dreer Co., a large horticultural establishment in Philadelphia. Not content to watch the business he loved from the sidelines, Henry formed his own seed company in 1890 at the age of 30. He started the company business in the small, dusty attic of a building on Philadelphia's Market Street. His first sale was an order for two ounces of flower seeds. Though the total was only $1.50, it amounted to quite a celebration for the young entrepreneur.
Two years later, his brother, Frederick, joined him in the business. The two partners and two employees made up the first staff.
As president of the company, the industrious, civic-minded Henry spent most of his time taking care of business at home, while Vice-president Frederick traveled the country servicing clients and developing new business.
It was a successful combination. Michell’s rented and renovated an entire two and a half-story building and then added on to it several times. By 1900, it was a bustling five-story facility with seven product departments. A separate four-story warehouse was just down the street. As the young company needed more room, Michell's bought and renovated the "Tower Hall" in 1908.
The building was just five blocks from the first location. Until 1920, the growth at Michell's had resulted strictly from retail trade. The store filled orders for bulbs, flower and grass seed from all overthe US and the world. Later in the decade, however, Michell's expanded into the wholesale market, selling to greenhouses as well as private individuals. Michell's was the first company to sell nursery plant material to garden centers and nurseries on a brokerage basis.
By the mid-1950, the grandsons of Frederick, Henry F. Michell 3rd and Frank B. Michell, Jr., had become the company leaders. Because the wholesale focus had been so successful, they decided to leave retail sales entirely. Henry and Frank decided to focus on the company's growth in the greenhouse and nursery industries. With the emphasis on serving commercial growers, Michell's was able to streamline their business and offer very competitive pricing. They also relocated the company headquarters to the Philadelphia suburb of King of Prussia.
As they celebrated 100 years of service to the horticultural business in 1990, the Michell Company decided to give back with a special campaign called the "Blooming of America" celebration.They committed a portion of all their sales to The Nature Conservancy in Arlington, VA. This reiterated their respect for the environment. The company continues to emphasize service to growers. This allows Michell's to become one of the leading suppliers not only of flower seed, but nursery stock, blooming plants, plugs, foliage and growing media.
To expand their service to commercial growers, Michell's has committed its focus to developing both an outstanding product line and an excellent delivery system. One of the ways they have made growers' lives easier is to incorporate a regional customer service program. A grower only needs to talk to one customer service representative to resolve any questions. The sales and office staff also make it easier for growers to keep on top of industry trends by visiting trade shows, suppliers, seminars and meetings. They bring back the highlights of this information to the busy growers.
Today, Henry F. Michell 4th (Rick) heads the company as President and CEO. Robert J. Steinlage is the Director of Sales and Marketing. Together, they spearhead the effort to further streamline service and delivery for the customer. As Michell's heads in to the new century, we not only remain on the cutting edge of the horticultural industry, we define that edge.