The Crimson White

Brown’s Greenhouses makes a comeback

Brown stands in front of some remaining debris at Brown's Greenhouse, on April 23, 2012./CW | Bryce Denton

Katherine Martin

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It never crossed Margaret Brown’s mind not to reopen the greenhouses she and her husband Riley Brown had owned and operated for 28 years.

Along with the Brown’s home in Cherrywood Circle in Holt, the tornado destroyed 15 of the 16 structures at Brown’s Greenhouses on Crescent Ridge Road.

“We had to come back because we love it,” Brown said. “This is our life. This is what we’ve done for 28 years. You get to know your customers, and everywhere we went people wanted to know when we were coming back. So, we just decided that this is what we wanted to do – rebuild and start over.”

In addition to Greenhouse 1, which was rebuilt by volunteer contractors, the Brown’s now have 10 structures back up and blooming with the same variety of flowers and ferns their customers remember.

Anita Moring, a loyal customer for about eight years, drives to Holt from her home in Fayette to buy plants for her garden. The atmosphere and friendliness, Moring said, makes Brown’s Greenhouses special.

Moring said she came to visit the Greenhouses about five months after the storm, but the business hadn’t reopened. It took about six months of working seven days a week for Brown’s Greenhouses to reopen their gates, Brown said.

“It’s great that they’ve made a comeback,” Moring said. “They worked very hard to get here. This kind of business is hard work.”

The hardest part of rebuilding, Brown said, was that they were not as young as they used to be.

“We’re a lot older,” Brown said. “It’s kind of hard to start over. You just have to though, for your life. You don’t really have a choice to start over. It’s something you want to do to make yourself feel better, and your customers.”

The same customers, and hundreds more, who flocked to Brown’s Greenhouses before the storm to fill the trunks of their cars with flats of pansies, impatiens and geraniums, continue to visit on clear days.

“We have 10 greenhouses,” Brown said. “We could have used 30 this year. It has been really overwhelming [for] the customers. We’ve had so many more. People have been trying to help us and patronize us and get us back going. They’re not going to let us go out of business.”

Mickey Pearson, Brown’s brother, has been helping at the greenhouses on and off for more than 10 years and was pulling out of the driveway when the storm hit.

Pearson also said he had no doubt the Brown’s would reopen their beloved business.

“This place is their life,” he said. “They’ve lost their son; they almost lost their daughter in a car wreck. This is their life right here.”

Pearson said he was always ready to help out when his sister and brother-in-law needed his help.

“[I was] just giving them back what they’ve done all their lives – what they love to do,” he said. “They both love people and their customers, and their customers love them. They’ve worked hard all of their lives to keep this place.”

Though it hasn’t been an easy road to recovery, Brown said, they are thankful to be alive and able to come back.

“It’s been really sad because you work your whole life and you don’t expect to lose everything in a few seconds,” Brown said. “You just try not to think about it a lot because things are just things. We didn’t lose our lives; we’re just blessed to be here.”

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Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894
Brown’s Greenhouses makes a comeback