LOCUST – Probably the primary of many reasons why the plants, flowers, seedlings and other greenery and fragrant flowers at the Guaranteed Plants & Florist shop grow so well they can be guaranteed is the love that goes into taking care of each of the more than 1,0000 varieties of growth for home, garden or anyplace else by owners Todd and Stevie Thompson.
That love of the plants and their care is also shared by the seven or more employees….it is always higher during holiday seasons since more delivery drivers are needed…. who recognize and value the pride the Thompsons take in their business, a business they started 45 years ago….April 3, 1976, to be exact.
But now the Thompsons want to spend more time traveling, revisiting some of the places throughout the world where they have been enjoying plants and flowers and other sights throughout the years. They want to step down from the 24 hours a day, 365 days a year proper plant caring takes, and recently put their thriving business on Locust Point Road up for sale. They contacted Derek DeBree at BHHS Fox & Roach Realtors, who knows the love and hard work the couple have poured into the business and has a desire, like themselves, to keep this piece of history and so many local memories a part of the Bayshore.
DeBree can be reached as [email protected] or 732-241-8269 for any information on the sale.
But more importantly, this is a fascinating history and even fascinating greenhouses that are included in the sale, coupled with the wisdom of the primary horticulturist, Todd Thomson, whose love for the sea and study of sea life was only exceeded by his love for plants.
The Fair Haven native went to the University of New Hampshire to study oceanography, after his graduation from Rumson Fair Haven High School, but discovered he could be as happy with plants and blooms and ornamental land plants as he was with algae. So after four years, he graduated with a degree in plant science and botany.
When he and Stevie married, it was her intention to study law, but she put that on a back burner to encourage her husband in his desire to grow, tend and sell plants
Besides being grateful to his wife for putting her career aside for his, Todd is quick to tell you how helpful his father-in-law, the late Schuyler Van Vechten, has been over the years in helping his business be the outstanding success it has been.
Van Vechten, a creative executive with Young & Rubicon Advertising….think the Pillsbury Dough oy or the Travelers’s insurance company’s Red Umbrella…told his son-in-law that people would buy things if they could be guaranteed; Todd takes so pride in his care for plants it was an easy thing to do. So on April 3, 1976, an Easter weekend when the temperature was hovering around 90 degrees, Todd and Stevie opened the Guaranteed Plant Store, all dressed, also at Van Vechten’s suggestion, in white, including medical doctor’s white jackets. The white dress in a plant store only lasted weeks, but the plants with the guarantee continue today.
Before renting the store in the Locust location from Johnson’s Florist, the owner since the early 1940’s, the couple first began selling hanging plants in beauty salons, with friend and business partner John Wark. Another tip from Todd’s advertising executive father-in-law. “Women will always spend money when they’re coming out of a beauty parlor,” he advised. And he was right. That led to more success, and the start of the Guaranteed Plant Store. The Guaranteed Plant Store evolved into Guaranteed Plants & Florist over the years.
The couple opened their new business with Wark as their partner, and he stayed very active for close to 30 years before moving on to another enterprise. Stephen Powers became a partner in 1978, taking over the cut flower and retail end of the busy enterprise.
The historic part of the plant store’s story is in the greenhouses. Three of the greenhouses still very much a part of the business are over 100 years old, and they belonged to the William Entenmann Florist in Jersey City and were brought down to Locust, although history doesn’t explain whether they came in the early 1930’s by land or barge. Today, those greenhouses, have been joined by another 1,0000 square feet of new greenhouses, in addition to another building and the open grounds for more plants and seedlings.
Through the years, the Thompsons have traveled to five of the seven continents, always visiting gardens, horticulture centers, parks, and in generally admiring and recognizing plants literally all over the world. They regularly visited college and university Trial Gardens, as well as attended horticulture shows and visit plant breeders. They also raised two children, Schuyler, named for his grandfather, and Georgia, named after her 2 grandmothers.
Even after the sale of the business, the Thompsons will continue to travel, though Todd readily admits there’s a few other things he’d like to do and is grateful he’s put behind him a couple of heart stopping…literally…incidents or illnesses so he can take time to enjoy life now.
“You can’t stop,” he says with a broad smile, “but you can’t do everything you want to do with the rest of your life and still give plants the 365 days a year that they need you.”