Sitting in an office in the back of Breedlove Nursery & Landscape, third-generation owner Paul Breedlove paused, becoming “nostalgic” as he recalled his earliest memories of the family business.
Breedlove and his wife, Laurie, are celebrating its 85th anniversary.
The late Jesse Breedlove, Paul Breedlove's grandfather, started the business in 1927, as a pecan tree growing nursery. At one time or another, his seven children — five sons and two daughters — worked there.
“They all grew up on the farm and that was part of the farm,” Mrs. Breedlove said. “Over the years, almost every family member has been a part of the business. And each has made important contributions.”
Breedlove's grandfather evolved the business from pecans to roses.
“He was one of the first of the pioneers of the rose industry,” Breedlove said, recalling how his grandfather sold roses over the radio on the Grand Ole Opry show during the Great Depression. He said that put the Breedlove name on the map.
When Breedlove's mother passed away in 1998, his dad, also now deceased, pretty much retired, Mrs. Breedlove said.
The nursery began on Edom Highway in Van Zandt County, just passed the Smith County line, and has been on Texas Highway 64 West since the 1940s, Breedlove said. In its rose-growing heyday, the company had several rose-packing sheds.
His first memory of the business was at age 3, looking out the car window to see smoke coming off the building, which burned to the ground in the late 1950s.
That wasn't the only time the family suffered a loss with the business.
Mrs. Breedlove said in the late 1980s, a “devastating freeze” wiped out everything and forced the family to start over.
Breedlove recalled as a child working side-by-side with the company's employees, organizing plants in the nursery.
“He wanted you to learn to work hard and them (the employees) to teach you,” Mrs. Breedlove said of her father-in-law.
“I'm getting all nostalgic now,” Breedlove responded quietly.
Mrs. Breedlove said most of the 30 to 35 employees are lifetime employees, whom she called faithful and beloved. Several have been there for decades, and many have been family members.
They are co-owners and “co-laborers in the field,” they said.
Mrs. Breedlove runs the merchandising and does landscape consulting and design while Breedlove does “a little bit of everything.”
Breedlove graduated from college in 1978 and started working fulltime for the family business the year after. “I always knew that I was going to” go into the family business, he said. “It was always comfortable.”
Mrs. Breedlove's father was also in the nursery business, growing hydroponic tomatoes in Del Rio for about 20 years, she said.
While she was a stay-at-home mom to their three kids, Mrs. Breedlove was “creatively stewing all those years,” she said. After the youngest child went to college, she started working for Breedlove Nursery & Landscape full time in 2003.
All of their children — Nick, 33, Bear, 31, and Anna Kathryn, 27 — have worked at the nursery at some point.
“It's a joy” to work together every day, Breedlove said of his wife, adding that they seem to be sort of an anomaly because they get along so well. He said he is often asked how they do it.
Mrs. Breedlove said they each have very separate areas of expertise and are often out on different jobs; it's not like they sit in side-by-side offices all day.
“Besides that, he's a great guy,” she added.
The Breedloves' blue heeler dog, Matilda, was named by a customer and followed her owners leisurely around the grounds as they showed off the nursery on Wednesday.
The 4-acre nursery is filled with potted plants and flowers and trees. Mrs. Breedlove said they build a new vignette garden every few years to show customers a tangible example of how plants grow, stone work and other outdoor design possibilities. They also do quite a few water features in their landscape designs.
Breedlove said the business' productivity has increased a lot over the years. They now have four designers that oversee landscape projects to completion — from designing to planting — everything is done in-house.
Mrs. Breedlove said they have a lot of longtime customers and now provide landscape services for some customers' children and grandchildren.
“We've been able to cultivate generations of customers,” she said.
Jean Boswell, 79, and her husband Hank Boswell, 83, retired to Tyler from Chicago in 1987 and have used Breedlove Nursery & Landscape since then at their house in Emerald Bay on Lake Palestine.
Ray Breedlove designed their beautiful landscape, Mrs. Boswell said.
“Many of our neighbors say that our house is as pretty as anything on the Azalea Trail, which is a real compliment,” she said.
Breedlove Nursery & Landscape still takes care of all of their flowers, seasonal color and feeding of the trees. She said she doesn't have to tell them what to do; they know what she likes and have even taken care of her yard while she has been gone.
Mrs. Boswell said they have about 200 azaleas, which have grown from small plants to 10 or 12 feet tall, on their lot.
“Right now you should see my begonias,” she said excitingly, adding that they are about 18 inches tall and go all along the back of the house on the lake. “Everyone who has come this year said, 'Where did you get those begonias?' And I said, 'Breedlove's put them out!'”
She said Mrs. Breedlove comes to her house before, during and after a landscaping job to ensure everything is done properly.
“They're just a different quality of people,” she said. “They take pride in what they do.”