PITTSVILLE – Like the plants they pot and nurture from
just a single seed to a vibrant flower, owners of the Parker Plant Depot Tom
and Paula Bell look to do the same with their one-year-old business, which has
already begun to bloom.
Having lived in Pittsville for most of their lives, the
couple’s picturesque, 77-acre farm is the site of the Parker Plant Depot, a
site with a history dating back four generations. According to Bell, their plot
of land was once part of a 750-acre farm that has been in his family for
Once called Parker Enterprises, named for his mother’s
maiden name, Bell said the family owned and operated business consisted of a
sawmill, lumber mill and a gristmill used for making cornmeal. Although most of
the property was sold to another relative in 1980, Bell and his wife bought part
of it back in 1995. From there, a plot of land that stretched to West Road,
where the Parker Plant Depot is found today, was bought in 1998, thus providing
the earth-laden blueprint that would be needed for the Bells’ visions.
The idea to begin a greenhouse business selling bedding
plants, hanging baskets and other lawn and garden needs arose back in 2002,
Bell said, and materialized just last year when the Parker Plant Depot opened
on May 13. In addition to bedding plants and hanging baskets, today the
business offers a variety of other things including wind chimes, birdhouses,
wrought iron items, flags, bagged mulches, herbs and even horse hay.
“I love being out here thinking four generations back they
were working this same soil,” Bell said. “It’s a real comforting feeling.”
However, what makes the Parker Plant Depot so special is
the plans the Bells have to integrate it into the community they love.
“We want to enjoy life and spread that with other people
because everybody’s day to day is hustle, hustle, stress, stress and we create
a lot of it ourselves but we can’t help it,” Bell said. “We want to create an
open space area that people feel like they can come to, relax, and not feel
Bell said his plans include making a walking path for those
who want to exercise in a peaceful area and even installing a small outdoor
kitchen for those looking to stop in and have a meal or a snack after their
walk. But the ideas don’t stop there, further down the line, Bell said he would
like to do hayrides on the weekends and play host to a carnival or a car show,
activities entire families can come out and enjoy.
“The town means a lot to me,” he said. “I’m hoping that by
doing this I’m bringing something to the community. That’s why I want to expand
into those things.”
To run a business like this, Bell said it takes someone
who loves nature and working outside, because when the season hits its stride,
“there just aren’t enough hours in the day.” He also said it’s important to
have folks around you who are seasoned veterans.
“What I have found in many years of being in business is
that if you don’t know, surround yourself with people who do,” he said. “As
long as you are surrounded by knowledgeable people, you cant help but be
However, just like any new business, learning everything
will take some time and the Bells said they are learning new things everyday
and are always open to suggestions from the public.
“We want everyone who comes in to be a part of what we’re
doing, not to feel like we are the ones that know it all,” he added.
As their visitors and customers become an important aspect
of the Depot, Bell said they become the most rewarding as well, especially
those who are vacationers to the area who have never had the chance to visit a
place like this.
“When they come in it’s almost as if they feel the
atmosphere we have here and they can relax,” he said. “A lot of people don’t
know what its like to be able to walk in an open space, to feel free and visit
a farm and be able to just enjoy the day because there is just so much blacktop
and concrete out there.”
For Bell, he said the business is a full-time job but it
is a therapeutic one for him since he is looking to wind down from the
construction business, which he worked in for 20 years.
love of planting something and actually seeing it grow, that’s as much
enjoyment to us as anything else,” he said. “I’m able to come back here and
time just kind of slips away.”