The land on River Road north of Keizer was first settled by members of the Egan family in the 19th century. In 1951 a descendant opened a greenhouse business on the site. Thirty-one years later Ellen Egan joined her father in the business. Now it is being sold.
Ellen Egan is the last of the line for the pioneer family to operate a nursery. With no children of her own or siblings wanting to take over the business, she is retiring and will do some of the things she didn’t have time for before.
A couple from Keizer have purchased the business and the land it sits on. The sale is expected to be final in a matter of weeks.
Since the announcement in September of selling the business, Egan Gardens has been as busy as in May.
“Lots of people coming in to say goodbye,” said Egan. “There have been some tears.”
For years Egan had been thinking of selling the business. When she posted the sale in June, she was surprised how fast the an offer was made. She joined her father’s greenhouse nursery business in 1982.
Egan developed a company that grew flowers and other landscaping plants. The company started as a wholesale supplier, selling to retailers such as Albertsons and Fred Meyer. Economic conditions forced the decision to offer their goods for retail themselves. Over the past decades Egan Gardens has become the go-to nursery in the Keizer area.
Spring and summer weekends saw an endless parade of homeowners and gardeners browsing and shopping. The hanging flower pots, all designed by Egan, were a popular item. Egan Gardens became the source of poinsettias and geraniums sold by local schools as fundraisers.
There is a camaraderie among the region’s independent nurseries and garden stores, often purchasing from each other. Egan has served as president of the nursery association, but she prefers working on the 18 acres of her business.
Her proudest achievement is the reaction she has seen over the years when her customers are happy, be they re-sellers or local consumers.
The challenges Egan has faced include the increasing amount of maintenance such a business requires from buildings to greenhouses to equipment. Good weather can be a friend of nurseries and garden stores, but as a grower, bad weather is always a challenge, especially like this past spring with big rain storms.
She said that nurseries are not recession proof. During the housing crash of 2008, sales took a dive as everyone was cutting back at that time.
“It was easier for people to pick up plants at the grocery store,” said Egan.
The residence on site had been Egan’s home but in retirement she will call her house in south Salem her main address, where she will have time to make the landscape the way she wants.
Retirement for Egan will include traveling and art. She will set up a woodshop and get back to drawing and painting (she created the artwork for Egan Garden advertising for years).
For the first time in nearly 150 years, the land that was granted to her great-grandfather, will no longer carry the Egan name.