Advisory Board

We are pleased to introduce you to the 2023 Garden Center Conference & Expo Advisory Board.

Susan Bachman West

Susan Bachman West, a 26-year company veteran and the first woman to serve as Bachman’s president, oversees overall planning, merchandising, and marketing of perishable products (annuals, perennials, blooming plants, green plants and cut flowers), and leads the teams in Bachman’s Floral Design and Weddings and Special Events departments. She also manages Bachman’s production and wholesale operations. Susan is the great, great grand-daughter of Bachman’s founders, Henry and Hattie Bachman, and a member of the fifth generation. Her current role was announced in the April 2016. She joined Bachman’s full-time in 1997 as a manager trainee at Bachman’s Eden Prairie Floral, Home and Garden Center. She has served in numerous management positions since that time, most recently as vice president of perishable merchandising and floral design, learning the family business from the ground up. In addition to six major garden centers, Bachman’s operates 27 outlets at the grocery store chain Lunds & Byerlys, and a floral, gift and card store in downtown Minneapolis.

Frank Benzing
President & CEO
SummerWinds Nursery

Frank started at SummerWinds Garden Centers Inc. in 2001 in store operations. In 2003, he was promoted to president and COO, and in 2007, he began his current role as president and CEO. Frank enjoys being associated with people who continually discover ways to improve both customers’ shopping experiences and the culture of their workplace. “I love being married to my wife, Marion, being a father to my daughter, Samantha, the thrill of mountain bike and road bike racing, and clearing my head while back country skiing,” Frank says. SummerWinds Nursery, with three locations in Arizona and three locations in California, is No. 14 on Garden Center magazine’s 2020 Top 100 Independent Garden Centers list.

Ken Lain
Watters Garden Center

Friends know him as 'The Mountain Gardener.' Ken is passionate about plants, creating beautiful landscapes and spreading the good news that gardening is fun. After earning a management degree from ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business, he and his wife Lisa Watters-Lain dreamed of owning her family's garden center. Twenty years later, their radio show, The Mountain Gardener, airs throughout Arizona with even more listeners tuning in to their weekly podcast. Ken also reaches gardeners through his bi-weekly garden column runs throughout Arizona. Teaching homeowners how to garden through live-streams, YouTube events and social media is a passion that brings him daily joy.

Liz Lark-Riley
Senior Customer Relationship Manager
Mahoney's Garden Center

For years, Liz Lark-Riley was the managing director for Rockledge Gardens, a 5-acre garden center, farmers market, and wedding venue. Begun by her husband's grandparents, Harry and Mary Witte in 1960, and carried on by her mother and father-in-law, Kevin and Theresa Riley, Rockledge Gardens has become a meaningful hub for the community of Brevard and a destination in Central Florida. She is now customer relationship manager at Mahoney's Garden Center in the Greater Boston area. She is passionate about leading her team with equal parts candor and compassion along with an expectation of excellence. As a self-described "personal development junkie" Liz feels fortunate to work in the green industry because "growth" is her very favorite thing.

Rob Sproule

Rob Sproule is co-owner and marketing director of Salisbury, a 2020 Top 100 Independent Garden Center based in Alberta, Canada. He's a speaker, marketing consultant, and author of four gardening books and hundreds of articles. His core job is to be constantly learning, both for his garden center and his agency, DIG Marketing. He lives in Edmonton with his wife and two young children.