The lot on Logan Street used to be covered in mounds of dirt and mulch, wooden pallets and parked work trucks — not much to look at.
A few months and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, the lot is in bloom, a multicolor sea of petunias, impatiens and hostas, to name a few.
It’s a thought that sprouted about 10 years ago for owner Tony Hess, who has owned and operated a landscaping design and tree service company since 1982.
The lot where Hess used to store materials and equipment for his landscaping business is now home to Hess’ Landscape Nursery.
“A lot of guys at my age, a lot of my friends, they’re retiring,” said Hess, 61. “But I have no focus on retiring for a long time because I think it's exciting.”
He’s been in the same space at 1136 Logan St. since 1997 (he ran the business in Jeffersontown prior to that), operating Hess’s Landscaping and Lawn Services out of the building and lot.
In the early years of his business, he also worked for Kroger at its distribution center in Louisville, though the office job wasn’t his style. He resolved to leave when he could make enough to support his family through the landscaping business, which he did in 1993.
“I felt like it was the day I retired,” Hess said. “Even though I put a lot more hours, a lot more time, but when you love what you do, it’s not work any longer.”
Part of the calculation to open the nursery, Hess said, was recent development in the Shelby Park neighborhood, which sits between Old Louisville and Germantown.
Between the nearby openings of Atrium Brewing, Logan Street Market and Toasty’s Tavern, to name a few, coupled with the influx of younger homebuyers and lack of nearby competition, Hess said opening a nursery for the area felt right.
“You know, the older people have left, they moved on or passed on, and millennials have moved in and really changed the whole concept,” Hess said, referencing shifting demographics of Shelby Park that have prompted concerns of displacement of longtime residents. “And I love to be around the excitement of the young people.”
After moving his landscaping staging site to another location near the University of Louisville, Hess started transforming the empty lot, installing an irrigation system and remodeling part of his building into a public-facing storefront.
Between renovation costs and his plant supply, Hess estimates he’s invested between $250,000 and $300,000 in the venture.
If the colorful array of plants doesn’t catch a passerby’s eye, the new mural on the side of Hess’ building might. Local artist Kacy Jackson, who created this year’s Kentucky Derby Festival poster, brought a concept designed by Hess and his wife to life.
On the staffing front, Hess was concerned about possible challenges when hiring for the nursery, as he’s had some difficulties hiring on the landscaping side in recent years that have led him to raise wages and start offering health insurance.
But he’s been pleasantly surprised, he said, after using employment website Indeed and finding a handful of quality employees with plant expertise.
He employs seven people at his landscaping business and nine — part- and full-time, including some family members — at the garden center.
Plants, from both in- and out-of-state growers, arrived in mid-April and the business opened later that month.
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“We might pay a little bit more for our plants, but they’re an A-plus plant,” he said. “We take a lot of pride in our nursery stock.”
From trees to shrubs and annuals to perennials, what doesn’t sell at the garden center can be used in his landscaping business.
As for winter, Hess and his team are still cooking up ideas, though he imagines hands-on classes will be part of the offerings.
Until then, there’s more work to be done outside. Hess pointed around the lot on a recent sunny afternoon, talking about plans for future hardscaping and other improvements.
As Hess stood near a pallet of annuals, a customer passed by.
“I’m so happy you’re here. This is thrilling,” the woman said. “I hope it thrives and thrives. It makes it so beautiful here.”
Hess smiled, thanking the well-wisher.
“You hear from the horse’s mouth there,” he said. “That’s what I really wanted to hear from people.”
Hess’ Landscape Nursery hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: New Louisville plant nursery opens in Shelby Park neighborhood