This is what is left of Quinn’s Corners Garden Center.
The series of buildings and lean-tos had begun with a yellow-brick house and a small greenhouse next door to it in the early 1950s. As home ownership grew after WWII, so did purchase of flowers and plants and potting soil and yard decorations, and piece by piece the breezeway between the house and greenhouse was filled in by another greenhouse with a door between, then a wing added on the back, then on the side. Finally, demand grew so huge that one long greenhouse room was added all the way down the front of the original greenhouse building, the breezeway greenhouse and the house itself.
The owners lived their business every day, very skilled in plant care, learning new techniques and products and full of advice for their growing crowds of loyal customers. Even into the era of big box stores adding garden centers, customers continued to return to Quinn’s sloping flagstone and dirt floors, makeshift transparent ceiling panels letting in the light, mismatched shelves of pots and watering cans and pink flamingos and little dutch boys and girls because they were always greeting by Dorothy herself, always found the flowers they wanted because she ordered what people asked for, always got their gardening questions answered because she and her husband and children knew the answer from experience or could find it if they didn’t know.
My mother shopped here from the early 1950s into the 1970s. I remember walking through that door in the 1980s through the 1990s when I passed it on my way home from work, and then went there intentionally when I began working at home. I enjoyed talking with Dorothy, who was nursing her second husband through the end stages of lung cancer by that point. I always learned from her and shared my own gardening knowledge, and enjoyed in early spring walking through the sloping doorways from the geranium room to the impatiens room to the houseplants room to the annuals room, planning the flats of flowers I’d choose and plant for my mother for Mother’s Day, choosing some last-minute seeds for my vegetable garden in summer, or in autumn stopping on the way home from work to choose from the overwhelming outdoor display of chrysanthemums they had grown from cuttings in that back room beginning in May.
And there were always kittens there in the spring; a stray mom cat would find her way into the warm, quiet and comforting greenhouse rooms and have her kittens under one of the planting tables or the bottom shelf of a display. Several times the momcat disappeared and they would hand feed the kittens. Each year I’d help to find homes for or foster the ones they hadn’t adopted out.
What you see here is the original greenhouse building and one small section of the front wall of that long greenhouse addition. They’ve been deconstructing it since spring. Dorothy was diagnosed with colon cancer and passed away quickly in 2003 at age 84 after 49 years of greeting the public. Her children tried to carry on, but apparently it was difficult without her and the place stood empty for several years. Because of the space along this road, what will replace it can only be another small business, and that is comforting to know. I hope the soil retains the memory of a half-century of friendship and commerce working hand in hand.