By Dasha Morgan
Asheville – For Jesse Israel & Sons Garden Center on Brevard Road in Asheville, business has been phenomenal. Despite the challenge of keeping the store as safe as possible with daily sanitizing, social distancing, and dealing with those picking up curbside orders, Jesse Israel and Sons never had to close its doors.
Adjustments had to be made and are continually being made, such as the hours of operations (Mon – Sat, 9 am – 6 pm, and Sunday 10 am – 6 pm. Elderly only Mon-Sat from 8 am till 9 am) and the number of customers allowed in an area at one time, but business continues to boom. The Garden Center has top quality hardy trees, herbs, shrubs, vegetables, seeds, and bedding plants. They have annuals, perennials, and even many pond supplies, with fish and water plants. According to Alan Israel, “everything has been selling.” There are a lot of new, first time gardeners. He keeps hearing, “This is my first time to plant a garden, and I am so excited about it.”
Jesse Israel & Sons sells a wide variety of plants and all the supplies needed to make sure those plants grow well. They carry a full line of products to amend the soil, help with watering needs, control pests and fertilize. The store offers all kinds of containers, statuaries, birdhouses, feeders and seed, and decorative items. The Garden Center is well established and has been in the greater Asheville area for over 50 years.
It evolved from Jesse Israel and Sons Nursery which was a part of a seventh-generation farm in Candler. The founder, Jesse Israel, and his wife Betty, became immersed in the growing of plants and the natural world at the family farm.
In 1982, along with David and Lonnie, Jesse L. Israel decided to open Jesse Israel and Sons Nursery and Garden Center at the WNC Farmers’ Market in Asheville. Jesse Israel served his country in the Pacific Fleet during World War II, fought in many major battles and flew on the last air raid of Tokyo in 1945. As a distinguished Navy veteran, he was honored during the Honor Flight from Asheville to Washington, DC, in May 2011. Jesse passed away at the age of 91 in 2016.
The Garden Center’s location on Route 191 near the entrance to I 40 and not far from I 26 and next to the Farmers’ Market makes it easily accessible for travelers, as well as locals with easy parking. The center is now run by Jesse’s grandson Alan Israel and a staff of approximately 20. David is the president of the company; Alan is the vice president. Alan is the son of Lonnie and Gail Israel. He attended Enka High, graduated from NC State with a BS Degree in Horticultural Science in 2002, and now is married with a daughter, McKinley, at Pisgah Elementary, who is just beginning to learn to garden.
This year an unusual relationship with the North Carolina Arboretum arose due to the fact that the Arboretum, because of COVID 19, had to close their gift shop and could not sell the plants they had been growing. These were a hodgepodge of unusual plants, some perhaps having been grown for the stunning Quilt Garden. Alan, whose father Lonnie had once been on the Arboretum society’s board of directors, stepped up, offered to sell the plants and give the Arboretum the proceeds. So far the proceeds have been over $16,000.
According to Alan, the seasonality of gardening is one of the biggest challenges he deals with throughout the year. Planning what he would like to purchase so that it will arrive at the proper time for the proper season takes an extraordinary amount of forethought. He must constantly be “looking ahead.” The seasons ebb and flow and he must prebook everything so it will arrive in time for planting.
Fall of course is just around the corner, so the tulip bulbs which were ordered from Holland need to arrive in time for fall planting. And the vegetables which will do well in cooler weather, such as spinach and kale, must be available for purchase. The timing of his purchases is critical to his business. This year is bringing some amazing results, as so many people who are required to stay home want to beautify their property with flowers, trees, and plants.