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Two prominent nursery closures a sign of the times?

Two local nurseries are closing up shop and Dori Monson will miss them. (Image: Creative Commons, Herry Lawford)

It’s another sign of the times, but for Dori Monson, losing two big-name plant nurseries hits close to home.

Choosing a new tree for the yard is part of a Mother’s Day tradition, but that may not happen this year for Mrs. Monson after Wight’s in Lynnwood and Furney’s in Des Moines both announced they’re closing shop.

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Horticulturist Jason Billingsley explained to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show that the owners of the 70-year-old plant nursery in Des Moines received an offer they couldn’t refuse.

“It’s like 13 acres and back then (1929), it was actually all just wooded and trees all around the orchard stand that they started, which eventually became Furney’s Nursery,” Billingsley said. “Over the years, it’s built up so much … It’s now a thriving commercial center.”

The property has become extremely valuable to developers, Billingsley said.

Dori said he’s sad to lose the nurseries, which he sees as more of an oasis or urban park than a place to simply buy a plant. But Billingsley is optimistic in the business model, for the sheer fact that people are still interested in horticulture.

“I think what it means is that the nursery industry is probably going to have to evolve and cater to the folks who live in more of an urban environment,” Billingsley said. “I think if the nursery industry continues to change and evolve, it will be successful in the long run.”

Dori wondered if Amazon has figured out the plant nursery business yet. Maybe Amazon Grow?

“I would say it’s pretty limited so far,” Billingsley said. “It’s a little more tricky to sell plants online just because each individual plant is different and it’s not that set product that you can sell as easily as a book, but I will say that it’s not going to be that way forever because they’re getting better and better.”

Billingsley says plant nurseries and garden centers need to offer excellent customer service because a plant can’t grow on its own. A good business will offer advice and answer questions.

Furney’s, which is expected to close by the end of May, employs about 30 full-timers, according to Billingsley, who starting his own business: landscape consultation and design.

“I’m really going to enjoy it,” Billingsley said. “I’m ready to move on to new things.”

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