Jennifer Fruno arranges trays of bergonias, the last of the summer flowers at Gibbs Nurseryland which is closing at the end of September.

Jennifer Fruno arranges trays of bergonias, the last of the summer flowers at Gibbs Nurseryland which is closing at the end of September.

Blooms fading on Gibbs Nurseryland

Township of Langley pays $5.75 million for 200 Street landmark

For 60 years, the flowers tumbling from hanging baskets and three acres of plants and shrubs at Gibbs Nurseryland have offered motorists a visual treat as they drive the grey-black tarmac of 200 Street.

By the end of September, the colour will have faded from Gibbs as the business is closing.

The property, three acres on the southeast corner of 200 Street and 80 Avenue, was bought last November by Langley Township for $5,750,000. The municipality gave Gibbs Nurseryland owners Dave and Sharon Preston a year to wind down their business.

For customers, it all ends on Sept. 30.

“It’s bitter sweet,” Sharon Preston said, “because we weren’t quite ready to be moving.”

The couple have retained the company name, and although retirement has crept into their conversation, they are keeping open the option to owning another nursery in another place, with the same name.

“We’re not closing the door to re-opening, but no property seems desirable,” she said, adding that customers are quite sad that the garden centre is closing, “but are happy for us.”

“Some have shopped here since 200 Street was a dirt road. Some are very broken hearted.”

For many customers, going to Gibbs for their Christmas tree, floral Thanksgiving arrangement or spring bulbs became a tradition on which memories are built.

The news came as a jolt for the staff, some of whom have worked with the Prestons since they bought the business almost 20 years ago.

“They are finding it quite hard. We are a close knit family,” Sharon said. “It will be an adjustment for everyone.

“We never realized how much community support there is and how many people are upset that we are leaving. Customers have been awesome. It’s been great for us and we wouldn’t do it any other way. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

Other nurseries have already approached the Prestons with a view to hiring some of their staff, while other workers are finding work in other areas of the industry, including learning landscape design.

Manager Randall Wittet has been with Gibbs for 16 years. He is hoping to find work with the Township’s parks department. His colleague Jennifer Fruno is returning to school to study greenhouse and nursery production.

“It’s been a fabulous 16 years,” Wittet said.

He thanked the thousands of customers “who have been loyal to us over the many, many years, from all over the Lower Mainland.”

Scott Thompson, the Township’s property manager, said that there are no immediate plans to demolish the buildings.

The property abuts the northwest corner of the Township’s Events Centre property which covers about 25 acres.

Acting mayor Grant Ward said that council will be asked to consider a number of possibilities for the Gibbs Nurseryland property. These include a hotel, restaurant, a theatre that would attract live acts, and some commercial elements.

Ward said that he personally feels the property “is an ideal location for a community gaming facility.”

He added that he would “like to see the highest and best use for that land.”

Ward favours a joint venture with private enterprise.