Arboretum to ‘future-proof’ Kilquade garden centre with €4m expansion

More government support needed for businesses to undertake sustainable new builds, says co-owner

Arboretum, a Doyle family-owned garden centre brand founded in Co Carlow, will commence work on a €4 million expansion of its Kilquade, Co Wicklow, outlet and lifestyle centre in the coming weeks that its co-owner said will “future-proof” the business for years to come.

Once completed in spring 2024, the 2,390sq m (25,726sq ft) garden centre will span six acres, incorporating a food hall, a fashion section and an expanded health and wellness department. The new garden centre will also, for the first time on the Kilquade site, stock Arboretum’s indoor plant range.

The existing garden centre will remain open for business throughout the works, which are due to commence on August 14th, “albeit with a pared back offering”, the company said in a statement, with a temporary structure housing a cafe and a range of plants.

It comes just two months after the group – which has its flagship store in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow – partnered with Chapters Bookstore on Parnell Street in Dublin to open its new urban green garden centre aimed at city gardeners.

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Fergal Doyle, co-owner and chief commercial officer at Arboretum, said the expansion of the Kilquade garden centre was “always part of the dream” after acquiring the site in 2015.

“We knew there were legacy issues with the site,” said Mr Doyle, who co-owns the group with his brother, chief executive Barry Doyle. “So we had to kind of smooth them over and win over people in the area, particularly Wicklow County Council. They had to see that the people who were operating the site weren’t messers.”

Mr Doyle, whose mother Rachel Doyle founded the business from her back garden in 1977 and is a director in the business, said that Arboretum received planning permission for the expansion before the pandemic but that Covid had delayed the plans, which were then “put on ice”.

The “silver lining” of delaying the project, he said, was that they have more certainty around the cost of construction than they did last year or during Covid, and that the Arboretum team had “more time to hone in a contractor”, international garden centre specialist Rabensteiner.

“It’s important for us to future-proof the business and make it as sustainable as possible,” he said. Combined with the carbon capture associated with the plants that Arboretum sells, the new facility will effectively make the group carbon neutral, Mr Doyle said, incorporating a rainwater harvesting systems and solar panels.

However, he said that more government supports should be available to businesses looking to build new, sustainable facilities. “The gripe I have is that if we’re doing a retrofit, for example, in our HQ in Carlow – which we are looking at – for it to become more sustainable, and we have costed that out, we could get into the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s [grant] programme. But there isn’t government support for new builds.”

However, Mr Doyle said: “We’re in a fortunate position to be able to do what we want to do and, yes, downstream it will save us money, but we have to front-load capital expenditure to do that.”

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times