The Greenery celebrates 50 years
BY ANGELINA MARTIN
In 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, American troops began to exit Vietnam and the Flower Power era was alive and well at Woodstock — and in Turlock. The community received the gift of plants, garden décor and unmatched knowledge when The Greenery Nursery opened its doors 50 years ago, and the horticulture haven is still thriving a half-century later.
“It’s pretty humbling,” The Greenery owner Jay De Graff said of his business’ milestone birthday. “I never expected to do this or be here or anything like that…but it’s our customers who have built the thing. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
Turlock residents George and DeaAnna Schumacher founded The Greenery in 1969, converting a small piece of land downtown into a one-stop shop for trees, flowers, vegetables, houseplants and more. Though George passed away in 2017, his longtime employee and partner De Graff continues the nursery’s legacy as the city’s go-to location when they want landscaping that will leave a lasting impression.
De Graff first began working at The Greenery in 1982 as a Turlock High School senior. He would walk to work after class, he said, where he could often be found picking up fallen camellia blooms and pulling weeds. De Graff was one of just two employees at the nursery back then, and decades later the business has grown to employ over 20 — but that’s not the only thing that’s changed throughout the years.
“People have gone from being horticulture hobbyists into much more visual shoppers,” De Graff said. “We’ve gone from our customers being collectors of plants to people now saying, ‘Oh, that’s a pretty flower. I want that.’ They don’t know it’s a geranium, but they want ten of them for a big splash of color.”
In addition to changes in the types of gardeners they see, plenty of other things have evolved at The Greenery since 1969. The shop sells more than just live plants now, with a gift shop that offers garden pieces like birdbaths and outdoor artwork, and even the type of shrubbery offered has been changed to a more drought-friendly inventory in light or the state’s recent water woes.
De Graff said he still remembers the day then-Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency because of the dry spell, which was one of two droughts The Greenery has seen and one of many setbacks the nursery has experienced over time.
“It really affected us. From the day (Brown) uttered those words, it was like someone went and flipped a switch and business stopped,” he said. “The drought changed people, and it changed how some people landscape.”
The nursery has also overcome the arrival of countless big box stores in town, like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wal Mart, which arrived in 1993 and sent The Greenery employees into a panic. Meetings with the Turlock Chamber of Commerce were held to discuss what the nursery would do in light of another garden option moving into the city, but customer loyalty never wavered and the store continued to prosper.
De Graff gave credit to his staff’s expertise and helpfulness as a draw for most customers.
“We give advice here,” he said. “Even though horticulture is a diminishing industry, I still have several people that have great information and can answer your questions versus going out to Home Depot where yeah, there’s a guy there, but he’s a stocking person and he’s not there to give you advice.”
Business remains so good, in fact, that The Greenery just completed an expansion into its neighboring lot that houses a classroom for informational horticulture workshops, provides more storage space and doubles the nursery’s parking. Community members will have the chance to see the new addition and celebrate The Greenery’s 50th anniversary on Saturday with a celebration from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., complete with a pottery sale and refreshments.
“This is all thanks to those people who have been loyal and patronized us over the last 50 years,” De Graff said. “There are a lot of other options out there that you can go to, but it’s nice that people still want to come to a place like this.”