February 21, 2014 by Grant Segall, The Plain Dealer @cleveland.com
Grant Cleveland sells kits with tiny plants but stocked the vivid new headquarters of DuneCraft with big ones.
Lynn Ischay, The Plain Deale
Grant Cleveland's business, DuneCraft, seems to be sprouting as fast as the plants and seeds in its popular kits. He just bought and vividly remodeled a 170,000 square-foot headquarters in Warrensville Heights.
Did you change your name just to get into my column?
No. I'm descended from Grover Cleveland. We're very distant relations with the city's founder, Moses Cleaveland. When I travel and people ask my name and I answer, they go 'No, sir, your name, not your city.'
So tell us about your wild new interior, with the deep ponds, big stones, lush plants, bright art, ping pong, air hockey and just about everything but private offices.
The place was Premier Industrial years ago. I had Payne & Payne from Chardon do the reconstruction. I used Mock Properties from Mogadore for the ponds. We had to knock a wall down and bring in an excavator. The barn stones are from a 200-year-old gristmill in Chesterland.
All the desks and credenzas and file cabinets and even the trash baskets were custom-made by 44 Steel in Avon. One of the desks lights up.
All the photographs and paintings are mine. I have a gallery here. I've been in Dick Kleinman's gallery. I had an exhibit at the Fairmount Center for the Arts. I'm also the president of Fairmount's board.
Fairmount's changed a lot.
I spearheaded the renovation. We put more content on our website. We had to raise prices, but we increased registration 20 percent. My daughter dances there. They teach ballet, jazz, hip-hop, just about every kind of dance.
Back to DuneCraft: How many employees?
We have 48 full-time and 28 part-time. We have some Bhutanese refugees through Catholic Charities.
Where are you from?
I was born in Henderson, Mo., but my family came to Fairlawn when I was 4. My dad became director of the emergency room at St. Thomas.
I went to John Carroll. It's got one of the best accounting programs in the country. I met my wife, Laura, there. She's local and very pro-Cleveland. We built a home in Chagrin Falls on the river.
When did you become an entrepreneur?
I started buying stocks at 11. I started a company doing perennial gardens at 14. I had an internet company that did pretty well 'til the market crashed.
Then I looked for something we're good at in Cleveland: manufacturing. Cleveland has tens of thousands of industrial shops. The challenge is finding them. Some of them don't even have computers. It's always people who know people who know this guy.
I had been growing plants from seeds since I was a kid. I had an idea of a kit with different compartments of different heights to grow cactus. Now we sell themed terrariums, sprouting houses, science kits, miniature aquariums and novelties, like slime and snow kits and message beans.
Is it local stuff?
Our seeds come from the whole world. But most of our parts are made here. All our injection molding and box making and signage is done in Cleveland. We do all the assembly here.
Is it hard finding capital here?
I work with Huntington. They're Ohio-based. They've been awesome.
Hard finding customers?
We sell to Toys R Us, CVS, Hobby Lobby...We sell to a lot of local companies: JoAnn's, Darice [Pat Catan's wholesale arm], Marc's, Big Fun down on Coventry, Gales Garden Center....
Where do you hang out with Laura and the three kids?
We go to the Botanical Gardens a lot and the Rockefeller Greenhouse. There are only about 40 botanical gardens around the world.
We hike a lot in South Chagrin, The parks here are really nice. The towpath is amazing.
My wife wants me to mention her favorite shopping. She likes Banyan Tree in Tremont and Hedges in Chagrin Falls.
Where do you eat?
Gamekeeper in Chagrin is my favorite restaurant. I like the short ribs. Joey's is where we get pizza usually. Lolita in Tremont has a polenta that's really good.
What else do you like about Cleveland?
People don't realize the architecture. The houses on Fairmount are fantastic, like the one with the secret speakeasy. Our home values are amazing. No one can argue with what half a million dollars can buy in Cleveland, versus maybe 800 square feet in Miami.
You go to other cities, there's no water pressure, and the water tastes like crud. Here we have an ocean of fresh water at our doorstep.
Can Cleveland party?
We love the summer solstice party at the art museum and Pandemonium at Cleveland Public Theater. Pandemonium has all this free food and stuff going on on 24 stages, from opera to violin to two people smacking each other. One installation at Pandemonium was a womb.
Cleveland Public's president, Raymond Bobgan, comes here and plays ping-pong. He's really crafty and smart.
We have great theaters. Some of the lesser-known ones like Cleveland Public do really cutting-edge stuff. That's where tomorrow's going to be.