Picture yourself starting a business. Let’s say a garden center & nursery business… To make it challenging lets take a man from Clearfield, Pennsylvania, a lush, moist, humid area with loamy, rich soil. A place where plants virtually grow by themselves. You’d think, “this would be an excellent location for a nursery”. Add to the scenario, the fact that this is a man and his wife, that grew up during the worst years of the depression and had little capital to start this business.
His name is Dwight (Rick) Richner. His wife’s name is Ferda (Jackie) Richner.
The fact is, this man isn’t going to start this nursery in an area he knows well. He is going to start this nursery in the semi-arid climate of Colorado Springs, Colorado. This area known more for “Camp Carson” and Pikes Peak, than people who could overcome great odds to start long lasting businesses. This is the post-World War year of 1948. The location is 1827 West Uintah. Thought of now as an extremely busy thoroughfare, Colorado Springs knew this street to be the only main street on the “west side” that was a “Dead End”. There was no access to I-25 from there at the time. In fact there was no I-25 in 1948! The only way to Rick’s Nursery was via the side streets leading from Colorado Ave.
Certainly, the best time to catch a person’s interest in trees, shrubs, and garden supplies is in the spring of the year. A time when “the fever” runs rampant and the late snow storms finally come to an end. But despite that fact, Rick’s Nursery, opens its doors for the first time in September of 1948.
Without question, it would certainly take a positive attitude, plenty of patience, and a hard working couple to accomplish such a feat. Fortunately, Rick Richner and Jackie had lots of savvy and a “never say die” attitude. They would rise early in the morning, put in a few hours, send their boys off to school, and put in a full day’s work, before calling it a “day”. Rick began an advertising campaign, challenging people to find his “hole in the wall” location. Many took him up on the challenge and, business, just like the plants, began to grow.
After several successful years, the Richner’s decided that a full fledged Garden Center was needed to add the missing link to their business. They had the current cinder block building erected and leased it out to a gentleman to run a garden center. After a period of time the business changed hands, and Jackie decided to run it herself. Using a small, plastic domed, greenhouse, to sell bedding plants out of, Jackie began to enhance the garden center with a fertilizer with the “Rick’s” name upon it. This private label fertilizer was proclaimed to be the only fertilizer for the “Pikes Peak” region, a delcaration that customers still stand by. Jackie stocked the garden center with many “hard to find” garden items, and proudly proclaimed “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it!”.
As if that weren’t enough to handle Jackie looked for a product line that would help fill the gap during the winter months. Calling upon her long time friend, “Skipper” Byram, and another young lady named Clara Young, a craft shop was formed in the eastern half of the building. For many years westsiders knew just one place to come for all their “crafty” needs.
In 1976, Rick decided it was his time to retire and lease his nursery to another “Rick” by the name of Rick Schubert. Rick S. carried on Mr.Rick’s tradition of Colorado grown trees and a wide variety of “container grown” stock, at the time, a new trend in the industry. Rick continued to offer unique designs and installations to serve his customers.
The plant area was leased out in the mid-seventies to a business called the “Rain Forest”. When the “Rain Forest” left for another location in 1979, Jackie decided to enclose the current building in the “barn wood” sided structure that we now recognize.
Ann Doss Nanninga, leased the plant shop in 1980, and developed a store where any green plant could be found and fresh flowers and arrangement were available daily. Her reputation grew because of the visible quality of her bedding plants as well as the tropical house plants. Ann always worked hard to choose the type of growers that would bring her the very best and nothing else! From 1980-1990, Ann used her “nursery” experience to quickly develop these specialties into a profitable business.
Jackie continued to run the garden center, with youthful attitude that would not allow her to retire until 1985, when she sold her and Rick’s business to an eight year employee, another “Yankee”. The sale hinged on the promise that personal service, and wide selection of products be carried on as the Richner legacy.
In 1990, Ann Nanninga came to a decision to retire, after a number of successful years in business. With the kind of luck that can come only from the grace of God himself, Ann asked Gail and myself to take over her plant and flower business. Thanks to Ann and her husband, Ralph, we have arrived where we are now. A complete garden center, plant shop and lawn and garden rental center, dedicated to uncompromising customer service. We look forward to many years of “growing” at Rick’s.
Mr. Rick left us in 1987 and a piece of us left with him. A quick witted man, with a “country” sense of humor, he always had a kind word for those around him. D.M., as some of us knew him, was a unique individual, the likes of which we will never see again. Jackie, followed him in February of 1993. Although no-one knew her as Ferda, Jackie passed away in the manner she would have wanted. Cooking breakfast and looking forward to another sunny Colorado day. The Lord took her quickly and left her friends behind to relish in her unquenchable spirit.
Ron Richner now carries on the tradition. He is the owner and landlord of the property where Rick and Jackie once balled and burlapped trees and cheered them on to beat the odds of another Colorado winter.
-Mike Estes, former owner of Rick’s Garden Center