Eisley Nursery is Business of the Year

Chamber honor to be awarded at State of the Community dinner
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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There have been Eisleys on Nevada Street in Auburn for more than a century. The family, which moved to Auburn in 1909, started Eisley Nursery in the 1930s. Nearly 80 years later, it is a thriving retail and wholesale business with a strong history of community service and philanthropy. On Friday, the nursery will be honored as Business of the Year at the annual State of the Community Dinner being held at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn. Owner Earle Eisley credits the community for the success. “It’s because of our great customers in Auburn,” he said Monday. “They shop Auburn first. And (they shop here) probably because when they buy something here, it has been homegrown in the area where they’re going to plant.” He and his brother, Harvey, ran the business for many years. Today, Earle’s four children along with several grandchildren work there. Daughter Earlene Eisley Freeman is the retail manager. Another daughter, Sue Flohr, is in charge of wholesale orders. Son James works in the wholesale division and is the pesticide management expert. Son William is in charge of growing operations. Granddaughters Phoebe Freeman and Angelina Collier are cashiers and April Messeral helps her mom, Susan, in the wholesale side. Grandsons Hank and Cliff Eisley work in production. Linda Eisley, Earle’s wife, is in charge of potted color. They share a strong family work ethic and common goal “to have our nursery survive,” Freeman said by phone from Pittsburgh, where she was attending a Master Nursery Garden Centers board meeting this week. Originally the family grew pears and plums on the property, then had a chicken ranch for a while, Earle and Harvey Eisley said in a previous interview. In the 1930s, they began growing and selling pansies and everything took off from there. In the 1950s, they added the wholesale side. The store is still expanding, Freeman said. “We’re adding more products and just last year we (updated) the entrance,” she said. “This spring I redid our pottery area. The reason I redid it is I wanted to make it more shopable for our customers.” The store has a staff of 35 to 40 on a year-round basis and 70 to 80 during the peak season, which runs from April to June. “We’re fortunate enough that we have long-term employees here,” Freeman said. “We have employees who’ve worked here 20-plus years. They love their job. They just like what they’re doing.” The Eisley family sees to it that customers can rely on knowing that staff members are knowledgeable about plants. “(Employees) have to be able to identify 100 shrubs,” Eisley Freeman said. Beyond the business, family members are involved in numerous local endeavors. For many years the nursery has donated plants and flowers to the Gold Country Fairgrounds. Auburn resident Virgil Traynor receives plant donations for his community garden. In December, Earle Eisley received the Paul Harris Fellowship Award from the Auburn Rotary Club, presented in acknowledgement of his assistance to Rotary and the Salvation Army garden project. The nursery also provides support to the Gathering Inn homeless assistance organization, Ducks Unlimited, Placer Sportsmen, Masonic families, NRA, Placer High School Music Boosters and other school programs. That community outreach is one of the reasons it was selected as the Business of the Year, chamber CEO Bruce Cosgrove said Tuesday. “Each year we’re looking at basically five criteria — chamber membership, years in the community, community involvement of the business, volunteerism and contributions to the community as a whole through philanthropic donations and involvement in local organizations,” Cosgrove said. “They’ve been in business since 1909. Eisley Nursery is one of the friendliest businesses to visit and shop in Auburn. It’s a family business and the Eisleys treat all of us who are customers as extended family. (The business has) been a chamber member since 1962. … It’s a very strong family investment in their business and they have every intention of being in the nursery business 40 years from now.” Reach Gloria Young ---------- Fast Facts: Five things you didn’t know about Eisley Nursery 1. All four of Earle Eisley’s children followed him into the business 2. Earle’s daughter, Sue Eisley, bakes the cookies for the nursery’s gardening clinics. “All our classes have homemade goodies,” Earlene Eisley Freeman said. 3. Earle Eisley turns 80 on Thursday and still works at the store every day. 4. Before they opened the nursery, Earle and Harvey Eisley’s parents operated a chicken ranch at the Nevada Street property 5. Earle Eisley’s grandfather’s civil war pension kept the bank from taking the place away in 1917 or 1918. Adam Ray Eisley served in the Pennsylvania cavalry. “His civil war pension paid the bank,” Earle Eisley said. Info Box: State of the Community Dinner When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 15 Where: Sierra Building, Gold Country Fairgrounds, Auburn Cost: $37.50 Reservations: Call the Auburn Chamber of Commerce at (530) 885-5616 Ext. 223