A year and a half after taking over ownership of the Mostly Natives Nursery, Darlene Johnson is looking to sell. Ms. Johnson worked at Mostly Natives for two years before buying it from the original owners, Margaret and Earle Graham. After deciding to re-locate the nursery from Tomales to Point Reyes Station, Ms. Johnson spent six months finding the new location and building the infrastructure, brick by brick, for its current home on B Street.
“I feel like there’s a really good foundation to build on—we’ve had great community reception,” Ms. Johnson said. “My personal circumstances are such that I can’t continue giving the nursery what it needs and myself and my family what they need.” An East Bay resident and mother of three, Ms. Johnson said her round-trip commute can take up to four hours. “On top of a very physically exhausting job, being here eight or nine hours, I get home and I’m so exhausted I can’t talk to my kids,” she said.
But she considers the time she has put in at Mostly Natives well spent. “I think it’s going to be really easy for someone to step in and give it more time and energy and build it to its full potential,” Ms. Johnson said. “I wouldn’t say there’s been any failures, it’s just clear to me that the foundation is set and ready for an infusion of resources, time and energy.”
Sales have stayed steady since the business’s move, she said, and she envisions the next owners focusing on plant propagation and expanding the store’s garden supplies to include things currently not available in town, like plant supplements and specialized gardening tools.
“There’s a good tie between the nursery and the local community and the local ecology,” said Rachelle Bowden, who has worked at Mostly Natives since last November. “It definitely provides a good native plant base resource in a broader sense than just the Point Reyes community: all of West Marin.”
Ms. Bowden, who has worked in a fair share of big box nurseries, said that she hopes Mostly Natives continues on under new ownership. “Mostly Natives is just such a unique thing—I want it to maintain that uniqueness and its niche market.”
Ideally, Ms. Johnson said she would like to pass the business on to two or three people, as she thinks the scope of the work would do better under a partnership. To advertise the sale, she has reached out to customers, small nursery owners and landscapers, as well as to her Facebook page and mailing list. She hopes to sell by mid-September and transition out by the beginning of October.
Ms. Johnson also intends to keep the ownership local. “I don’t think the business is going to succeed with some kind of anonymous investor who doesn’t really get this community,” she said. “The reception for a new owner would also be stronger for people who are here and have connections and roots—and plan to be here for the long haul.”
A former employee who wished to remain anonymous agreed. “I think it will take someone local and very creative to use the inside space wisely,” the employee said in an email to the Light, “and at the same time really offer something on the nursery side that is more than ‘mostly native plants’ and gets creative around cultivating plants and species for integrated native gardens, as well as the classic cottage or all around perennial garden.”
Ms. Johnson said she’ll miss the personal connections she forms daily with people looking to connect with plants. “I wouldn’t say I’m a traditional plant nerd,” she said. “I don’t just want to be alone with the plants, I want to be with the plants and people—and the nursery is where that intersection happens.”
After selling Mostly Natives, Ms. Johnson plans to open a small storefront in her Oakland neighborhood with seeds, gardening tools and textiles, which she can manage on her own with no employees and no commute.
There is one other task Ms. Johnson must undertake before she hands over ownership. Her twelve-year-old black lab, Georgia, who “spends a lot of time here and gets a lot of love” is a constant in the nursery. “I haven’t quite figured out how to break it to my dog,” she said.