Almanac

News - September 11, 2013

End of era: Landmark nursery Roger Reynolds closes doors

by Jane Knoerle

'Well that just ruined my morning." "A very big loss to the community." "I spent thousands of dollars over the last few years. I did my share!" "Always sad to see the mom and pops leave after so many years."

These were some of the many comments posted on the Almanac's Town Square online forum, lamenting the unexpected Sept. 3 closing of Roger Reynolds Nursery & Carriage Stop at 113 Encinal Ave. in Menlo Park.

Owner Sally Halstead, granddaughter of Roger Reynolds, who founded the nursery in 1919, put a message on the nursery's website and a sign on the Carriage Stop's door announcing the closure. "Since the severe economic downturn of 2008 our business has been unable to adequately recover," she said in the announcement.

Attempts to reach Ms. Halstead for an interview were unsuccessful.

"What? No warning? What are they doing with all the inventory? I shopped here for 30 years — one of the last mom and pop places to disappear," wrote a Lindenwood neighbor. Another wrote, "I'm sure the 140k stolen from RR hastened their closing."

In 2010 Evette Christine Weiler, a bookkeeper for the nursery, pleaded no contest to charges of embezzling $140,000 from the business. Auditors discovered "dozens of checks" written to an accounting business, When Every Penny Counts, which she had created, instead of paying the nursery's health insurance and vendors' bills. She was sentenced in 2011.

What's next?

"What next?" asked a resident of nearby Felton Gables who posted on Town Square. "High density development, more offices, maybe some housing, increased backups at what is currently the least-gridlocked train crossing. Too bad for all of us in so many ways,"

According to the Menlo Park planning department, there are currently no plans or applications on file regarding the Roger Reynolds property.

With such family-owned businesses as Beltramo's Wines & Spirits, Draeger's Market, and Flegel's Home Furnishings flourishing, Menlo Park still retains its vibrant small town feeling, however, many are mourning the loss of another community fixture.

History

According to the company history, Roger Reynolds opened a commercial printing shop in San Francisco at the turn of the last century, but developed an allergy to printing ink and sought a new line of work that would offer plenty of fresh air.

He acquired 18 acres of land between El Camino Real and the Southern Pacific railroad tracks in Menlo Park. At that time the nursery fronted El Camino Real.

In the early years, the nursery's redwood grove was turned into a park with barbecues, picnic tables, a dance floor and a jukebox. It was rented out on the weekends to San Francisco organizations wanting "a day in the country."

To make ends meet during the Depression, Mr. Reynolds leased out some of his property. The Franciscan Forge began its business as one of his tenants. A Victorian cottage on the property, used as a guest house for the family, later became Edy's Candy Store, complete with soda fountain. That became the Carriage Stop, which sold garden gift items and houseplants.

After Mr. Reynolds died in an automobile accident in 1932, the business was run by his wife. She sold some of the land and later, part of the remaining five-acre nursery was leased to Home Savings of America.

His step-granddaughter, Ms. Halstead, has owned the business since 1978. She said she insisted on following her grandfather's legacy to provide high quality products and services at a fair value and "maintain a meandering garden of beauty that all can enjoy."

In announcing the closing Sept. 3, she said that after 97 years in the same location in Menlo Park, Roger Reynolds Nursery & Carriage Stop "has closed its doors for the last time."

She thanked generations of loyal customers who supported Roger Reynolds over the years. "On behalf of my family and staff, I thank each and every one of you for being with us," she said. "Your patronage and support has been most valued and appreciated."

Roger Reynolds was a nursery partner of the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden and of Filoli, the historic country estate in Woodside, and frequently won the Almanac's Readers' Choice Award for best nursery.

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