Dayton nursery surviving, through thick and thin
In July of 1993, Cheryl Cummings and a business partner opened a nursery in Dayton with $400, a lawn mower and the first month’s rent.
“And everybody said, ‘Cheryl you can’t start a business on $400 and a lawnmower,” said Cummings, 58, who will celebrate Dayton Valley Floral & Nursery’s 17th anniversary tomorrow. “It was a struggle in the beginning and every year things kept on getting better and better and better.”
Before opening the nursery with Michael Walker, Cummings worked in the copy machine repair business. She hasn’t looked back since.
“I was a service manager over in Reno and the only time people would ever call me is when they were really upset,” Cummings said. “Nobody ever called me to tell me their copier was working great.”
But in the landscaping business, the customers call with compliments.
“The only drawback is when you’re landscaping in the winter is the trees and shrubs look like dead sticks,” she said. “But those are probably some of the best phone calls I ever get when you put something in in the winter and in the spring when it leafs out I get these wonderful calls, ‘Gee, my yard looks gorgeous.'”
The three-acre nursery expanded over the years to include landscaping and yard maintenance services as well as an event pavilion and a floral shop that helps attract customers in the winter.
She also can show customers what their home would look like with new landscaping by taking a photo of their current yard and digitally superimposing their planned yard on top of it.
The last few years have been difficult on the business. Cummings said business seemingly dropped off a cliff in the fall of 2008.
The nursery no longer carries a large inventory of plants, and landscaping has taken a beating because of the sour housing market.
Instead of keeping plants on the premises she orders them for customers at a 25 percent or higher discount, depending on the quantity.
And like most small business owners, Cummings is working six days a week.
“Being self employed you’re constantly worried about cash flow,” said Cummings. “You don’t clock out on Friday and not think about it. You think about it 24 hours a day, every single day.”
But there are bright spots. Cummings said she is getting business to clean up front yards of foreclosed homes and as the community continues to age her yard maintenance business is picking up.
So for now, “survival is the new success.”
“Every day I come in and I’m able to open the doors, I’m thinking, ‘OK, I’ve made it another day,'” Cummings said.
She adds, “If I didn’t think there was a good chance that things were going to pick up again I probably would have folded my tent a long time ago.”