Earlier this week, a longtime customer of Patricia Rickenbaker came to her Hobby & Garden Center store along Bypass 72 NE with a concern.
Several leaves of a rose bush he owned had discolored, and he didn’t know why. Rickenbaker explained to him various fertilizers and sprays that could be used to promote the plant’s health, and the conversation ended.
Rickenbaker has seen thousands of similar interactions since her time running the store — and each one, she says, is a reminder about the relationship she’s developed with her loyal patrons.
“They’re so much more than my customers,” Rickenbaker said, which is why her decision to close after almost 14 years was so difficult.
The shop itself has been in continuous operation as a garden store since 1957, first in Uptown and then along the now-bustling commercial corridor since the early 1970s. Patricia and her husband, Frank, bought it in 2005.
“I would like nothing better for the community than to see it stay open. A lot of our customers are older, they can’t really get out of their cars, and that’s the part that breaks my heart,” Rickenbaker said.
She’s hoping a buyer emerges who has the same commitment to the local economy as the Rickenbakers and the store’s previous owners.
Frank died in 2013 — which almost put Patricia on the path to retirement. Instead, she sold an office supply store they also owned and held onto the Garden Center — partly as a tribute to her husband.
“After Frank died, I came here and gave it everything I had. I fought,” she said.
There was also a theft in the mid-2000s that resulted in losses of $100,000.
“Emotionally and financially, you never recover from that,” Rickenbaker said.
In a letter to customers that she’s planning to post on the store’s Facebook page, Rickenbaker laid out the next steps.
“I am hoping to find somebody to buy the store so that the Greewnood icon and legacy can remain. At the same time, I will be looking for a manager to carry on for me. If neither of these options comes to fruition, you are all going to be seeing one big sale as I liquidate and close down the business,” she wrote.
“This has certainly not been a job I could have done alone. Thank you to all of my customers, many of whom have become so much more than customers,” she said. “You have supported our little store for many years.”
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