In 2013, Mark and Robyn Holland listed Western Sierra Nursery with an area realtor. Two years later, they made a tough decision. If no buyer stepped forward by year’s end, they would close the business down. Then Dianna and Jeff Conaway entered the picture.
“We knew Robyn and Mark were selling and we seriously considered making an offer last year, but we just were not ready to make the time commitment,” Dianna said. “We heard there was a possibility that Robyn was going to close if she didn’t sell the business by the end of the year and that was enough of a push for us to move forward.”
The Hollands, who have owned and operated Western Sierra Nursery for 29 years, are happy for two reasons: the obvious one that the business is currently in escrow, and the fact that the Conaways plan on making no changes.
“The nursery will remain the same, down to the three cats we have on premises - Jack, Sherman and Shadow,” Robyn said. “Even Mark’s chili pit during December will continue, with donations collected benefitting the EMC SPCA.”
While she is excited about their new life adventure, Robyn added that she “kind of sold” herself along with the business, and will not only be training the new owners, but will also teach them the art of maneuvering trade shows.
Robyn’s long list of what she wants to do in retirement runs the gamut from purchasing a recreational vehicle for travel throughout the United States to waking up in the morning, and simply laying in bed to leisurely read the newspaper.
“I want to do things people do in spring - like go to Woodard Park and see all the blooms, or drive the Blossom Trail,” Robyn continued. “We’re always too busy that time of year to do anything. This spring, I worked 49 straight days without a day off.”
Mark isn’t so sure what he plans on doing following the close of escrow, expected mid-January 2016.
“I guess I’ll go a little crazy, wandering around town,” he teased. “I’m used to getting up before the sun everyday, and don’t think that will change. I guess I’ll just have to play each day by ear. It will take us a good year to settle down, to see what we really want to do. We want to make sure the new owners are successful. It’s a difficult thing we do here - dealing with a couple hundred vendors, the public, the taxes ... I don’t know if I’ll miss the business or not.”
The Conaways have worked in the retail business - through Pepsi - for decades, Jeff for 28 years (retired in January), and Dianna for 26. She has already given her notice.
“Purchasing the nursery allows us to utilize our many years of retail experience with our personal love of gardening,” Dianna continued. “Robyn and Mark have graciously agreed to share their experience and knowledge to ensure a smooth transition and we are beyond excited.”
Jeremy Obers has been a Western Sierra Nursery customer for eight years.
“Mark and Robyn are tops. This is the best nursery with plants and supplies in the area - without having to drive to Fresno,” Obers said. “They’re very knowledgeable. I’m grateful for all the good service I’ve received here.”
“It’s time to retire,” Robyn explained. “Mark is 73 and I’ll be 62. For 29 years, we’ve been open seven days a week, except for three holidays each year. That’s just the way it is when you have your own business.”
“While we have lived in Oakhurst for three years, heavy work schedules prevented us from really making Oakhurst our home,” Dianna said. “We see the nursery as a way to connect with the community, establish some roots, and finally call Oakhurst home. Western Sierra Nursery is such a wonderful piece of the community ... we just can’t imagine it closed.”