Growing up in Muskoka, Rob and Kristan Farlie never had to make a big decision on where they would settle down, it just happened naturally. “We love it here and now so do our kids”, states Kristan. After moving away to attend college, Kristan returned to Muskoka and started working in her chosen field of study. Rob would spend the summers in Bala managing the family business and move to Toronto in the winter for work. A few years after meeting, Rob would decide to stay in Muskoka year round with Kristan, and look to expand the local family business. “The decision was easy”, says Rob, “We always knew Muskoka is where we wanted to be”.
Today, Rob and Kristan Farlie are the current owners of the Bala and Port Carling Garden Centres. The Bala Garden Centre was established by Rob’s dad Herb Farlie, under the name Bala-Hy Greenhouses more than 40 years ago. In 2005, Rob and Kristan officially took over the family business and ten years later seized the opportunity to expand with the purchase of the Port Carling Garden Centre. Now the business consists of two garden centre locations (Bala & Port Carling) and a landscaping division.
“The best part about owning a business in Muskoka Lakes is the natural beauty of the area and community support”, says Kristan. In smaller centres, such as Bala and Port Carling, business owners are able to form connections and build relationships with each other. “This support system allows for opportunities to discuss challenges, new ideas, and in the very least commiserate with each other”, says Rob.
“The best part about owning a business in Muskoka Lakes is the natural beauty of the area and community support”
As business owners, Rob and Kristan see tremendous value in focusing on a responsible business model. “We have always expanded our business within our means”, says Kristan. The Farlies stress the importance of having and knowing your business budget, and growing a business at a comfortable and attainable pace. “In hindsight it is because of this mindset that we were able to purchase our Port Carling location when opportunity unexpectedly presented itself”, states Kristan.
When asked what comes next, the couple are quick to mention continuing to grow as a business. They continue to work towards a year round staff structure and additional management support to assist with work productivity, business growth and allow Rob more opportunity to expand the customer base.
The evolution of the business continues to motivate the Farlies. They often look back at where they started and where they are today. For as long as they can remember, they would attend Landscape Ontario Trade Shows, wishing their business could grow into an award winning business. Now after 13 years in business, they have achieved just that, winning multiple awards from Landscape Ontario for both the garden centres and landscaping division. The Farlies are proud to have a core group of staff who are just as excited about the growth of the business as they are.