Durango Nursery & Supply, Inc.
271 Kay Cee Lane
Durango CO 81303
Interview with Tom Bridge, Owner, and Sue Herlihy, Nursery Manager Emeritus
How did the nursery get started in Durango?
After growing up in New York, I attended college at the University of Denver and received a degree in Anthropology and Geology. From there I landed a job in Flagstaff at the Museum of Northern Arizona which led to another job in Durango excavating pit houses not far from the nursery. I fell in love with the weather in Durango and after a few years bouncing around the country (crab fishing in Alaska, gold mining in the Yukon, and hydroponic vegetables in N.Y.), I decided to put my roots down in Durango. With my earth science background, and growing up with an orchard and gardens, this prepared me for a career in landscaping, which proved to be successful for me. But I also saw an opportunity to serve the community better by building a nursery and landscape supply business. Seeking to create a one-stop shop for landscape contractors (and eventually homeowners, too), 25 years ago I purchased 6 acres of land along the Animas River. With my own land and good water rights, Durango Nursery and Supply, Inc. began in 1999. We now lease another 4 acres and there’s the potential to acquire more land nearby.
What markets do you serve?
While a good portion of our business caters to the local Durango market, actually our market covers customers from Silverton to Farmington, N.M. and Pagosa Springs to Cortez. This makes our plant inventory fairly diverse as this customer base includes Zones 2 – 6 and elevations from 6,000 ft. to 14,000 ft. We have the capability to deliver everything we sell and our trucks are on the road all the time.
What are some of your best-selling plants?
Aspen and fruit trees are very popular along with large spruce. We are expanding our edible plant selection as more people get interested in growing their own food.
What challenges are you encountering?
In the past, it was typical for a business to view the customer as king. In today’s world of tight labor markets, our business approach has evolved and and we now view our employees as ‘king.’ We’ve learned that the better we take care of our employees, the better they will take care of our customers. This philosophy helps the company in other ways, too – our employee turnover is much lower as employees want to come back year after year.
What’s in the future for the company?
We’re pleased with the product mix we offer now and our goal is to continue expanding the various product categories. We see a customer base that’s increasingly hungry for knowledge – they are constantly calling us to solve their horticultural problems. To meet this need, we are planning to open a garden center within the next few years. This would improve our ability to educate customers with workshops, classes and demonstrations.
What do you value most about your CNGA membership?
When we first joined, some twenty years ago, I was mostly interested in learning about new products. Now, I really value meeting with other people who are dealing with the same issues that I have. I enjoy speaking with different owners and managers who are willing to share their experiences so neither of us has to reinvent the wheel.