The MANTS formula has appealed to Ingleside Plantation Nurseries (IPN) since day one. MANTS is solely a trade show (no educational sessions), there are product sales written on the trade show floor and the MANTS staff and board put exhibitors first. It’s not happenstance that IPN officials rank the show the best in the nursery industry — IPN helped create the show.
Carl F. Flemer Jr. founded the nursery division of IPN and was part of the close circle of nursery owners that brainstormed the idea of an annual trade show and made it a reality. Flemer, who served as the Virginia Nursery Association president in 1965, along with Carville Akehurst of the Maryland Nurserymen Association, were instrumental in the creation of MANTS. The inaugural show was held in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1971 with 64 exhibitors, including IPN. Fifty years after MANTS was officially incorporated, the two nurserymen’s vision still guides the show.
“Not many trade shows can say they’ve made it 50 years,” says Fletch Flemer, Carl’s son, who has spent most of his adult life attending MANTS each year.
“I didn’t get out of the service until 1972 or 1973, so it was in its early days when I first started attending the show,” Fletch recalls. “And I’ve been every year since then except recently for a stint of two years when I had to miss because of an operation.”
The show moved between Virginia and Maryland at first, then it added West Virginia to its itinerary for several years. By 1981, MANTS found its permanent home in Baltimore, a move Fletch supported.
“It was fun to go to the three states, but that can get tedious and thankfully the board listened to the exhibitors who asked to stay in one place,” he recalls. “That has certainly helped the show grow into the size and success it is now.”
MANTS has a reputation of being a “selling show,” and Fletch confirms it.
“A lot of business gets done at MANTS. In the ‘70s and the ‘80s, there were so many orders being written on the trade show floor. We wrote orders all day,” he says.
The modern-day MANTS is still a selling show, but as the nursery industry has transformed, so has the show.
“Now there are opportunities for marketing plants and creating partnerships,” he says. “We have a large screen in our booth that plays videos of our nursery on a continuous loop. That helps us sell to customers who can’t come out to our nursery in person. It gives them a good idea of what our product looks like in the field.”
Fletch and his crew have also enjoyed competing for the Best Booth Award each year with the other green-goods suppliers, he adds.
IPN exhibits exclusively at MANTS.
“We don’t exhibit anywhere else. MANTS is in the heart of our customer base and shipping area,” he explains.
IPN grows a wide assortment of nursery stock on approximately 1,000 acres. IPN’s production list includes vines, perennials, grasses, shrubs, azaleas, broadleaf evergreens, conifers and ornamental and shade trees.
Being a charter exhibitor is a source of pride for Fletch.
“A few of those original exhibitors are still in business and MANTS has been part of what helped us and the other originals grow and stay competitive,” Fletch says.
Fletch has begun the process of retirement and his nephew Jordan Flemer will take over the nursery business.
“There’s a change of guard to the next generation, but you’ll still see me at MANTS,” he says.