by Tyler Smith
Mark Smith, a co-founder and the owner of West Seattle Nursery & Garden Center, has announced he will retire after 35 years in business. His last day is September 30. The Nursery will remain open under new ownership to be announced in the coming weeks.
The Nursery began as a seasonal lot in the spring of 1984. Smith and Irene Stewart, the business co-founder, set up shop first on SW Barton Street, across from Westwood Village. (He is shown in the photo above, working at their Christmas tree lot in the 1980s.) They moved around West Seattle until 1987, when they opened year around on land that is now a park by Beveridge Place.
In 1990, they moved to the current location at California Ave and SW Brandon St. And in 1992, they received a Mayor’s Small Business Award presented by then Mayor Norm Rice in recognition of their creativity and community reinvestment.
Throughout the years, the Nursery has been committed to offering programs that benefit the West Seattle community, promote gardening, and engage children in the joy of learning and watching things grow. Irene Stewart played an important role in getting the West Seattle Garden Tour started in 1995, and the nursery has been a sponsor every year since.
Smith became sole proprietor in 1997. Throughout the years, he has maintained a commitment to community, with the nursery offering classes, demonstrations, and open houses. Outside of West Seattle, the nursery is known for its award winning display gardens at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.
Back at home, the nursery sponsors Greenlife, the eco-friendly feature at the annual street fair in the West Seattle Junction. For many years, Smith has handed out candy to children trick-or-treating in the Junction business district. The nursery has a long history of donating to local school programs, garden-related community projects, and charities like Southwest Youth and Family Services, The West Seattle Food Bank, and West Seattle Helpline. The nursery’s new coffee bar donates the tips it collects to local non-profits, choosing a different one each month.
In 2014, Smith and his staff began planning an ambitious expansion project to be undertaken on the property adjacent to the nursery, where he was living at the time. He offered to give his house to anyone who would haul it away (there were no takers). It was demolished in October of 2015, to make way for the new Greenhouse/Gift Shop which opened in November of 2016.
“This has been an amazing journey. There have been some challenges but many more pleasant surprises,” said Smith. “Ultimately I think the Nursery has become a resource in the West Seattle community, and I am most proud of that achievement.”
Smith says he will miss the customers who enjoy shopping at the Nursery, especially in springtime when the lot overflows with flowers in bloom. He says he will also miss the Nursery’s staff, some of who have worked with him for decades.
“I have asked every manager at the Nursery to hire people who do the job better than me, and they did,” he said. “We have a fantastic team.”
The Nursery will remain open under new ownership to be announced the coming weeks. For his part, Smith intends to stay active in retirement. Some plans include taking classes at South Seattle College and learning the Chinese martial art, tai chi. He also wants to stay engaged.
“This is a new phase,” Smith said. “I look forward to trying new things and also finding new ways to give back to the West Seattle community that helped the business grow.”