Bev Nelson - Family Tree Nursery's Leading Lady
Family Tree Nursery is a household name in the Kansas City area. Lakeview Village resident Bev Nelson remembers when it wasn’t.
“It was a broken, rundown, bankrupt greenhouse,” Bev recalls. “My husband, Ron, and friend George formed a partnership and bought it off the courthouse steps.”
The two men rebuilt the place with their own hands and began growing perennials and annuals that would flourish in the Midwest. Today that’s the job of Bev’s son Eric who manages the Family Tree Nursery 10-acre greenhouse in Kansas City, Kansas.
“We knew he had a gift,” Bev remembers about Eric. “When he was 5- years old he was over here watering and working. Ron would say, ‘Eric, you understand these plants, you know how to do this.’ Ron had to train everybody else, but he didn’t have to train Eric. He just had a sixth sense about it all.”
In those early days, Bev added a feminine touch to the greenhouse by creating the Unique Boutique.
“My husband and George thought I had a talent for decorating,” Bev smiles. “I started with all kinds of pots and planters, but eventually got into silk flowers and dried flowers.”
It may seem counter intuitive for a greenhouse business but when Bev connected with some designers doing weddings with silk flowers the Unique Boutique was booming. Today, Bev takes no credit for the beautiful boutique business inside all Family Tree Nursery locations. Like other shoppers, she loves to browse and buy!
“Eric is taking our family business to the next level. His boys are taking it to the next level!”
A passion for horticulture has trickled down the family tree to the next generation. Jesse Nelson manages the Shawnee location and Jonah Nelson manages the retail side of the business. Both men remember younger days of pulling weeds, watering plants, and sharing in a few mud fights.
“We flooded an entire half acre in order to make an army tank battle happen and it was epic,” says Jonah. “It was epic,” brother Jesse agrees.
Their big brother Bo’s horticulture passion took him out of the greenhouse and into imports from coffee bean farms. If you’ve ever heard of Thou Mayest coffee in Kansas City, that grew from Bo Nelson’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“It’s all the same horticulture lingo I was raised on,” says Bo. “My grandparents and parents did a good job teaching us the language and the love of growing when we were younger.”
Some lessons have been harder than others for the Nelson’s, like the 1970 fire that destroyed the greenhouse. It happened on April first, with the greenhouse shelves full of gardening supplies and the benches full of plants.
“God has been in our lives every step of the way, even when we had that fire,” Bev remembers.
Bev says that was the year the business finances were expected to go out of the red and into the black.
“But you know, all of our bank people, and people we bought seed from, and other supplies, they all came together to support us. They forgave a lot of the debts. I have learned that God is in the details, and it just built our faith.”
Those trials haven’t been lost on her son and grandsons. They say growing up around their grandparents taught them so much more than how to grow plants.
“Grandma presented a cool outlook of love and support for grandfather, and she supported him,” Jesse shared. “She stayed alongside him, worked with him, and encouraged him. It’s really beautiful to see. They created an amazing legacy and we’re so blessed to be a part of it.”
Bev is proud of her family, and she’s thrilled Family Tree Nursery is still a favorite place for plant lovers in the Kansas City area. She’s grateful too for the many, many amazing employees who make this such a special place to be every season of the year.