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Fonnesbeck Greenhouse: Hobby is now a 22-year landmark in Mendon

‘You don’t do it for the money; you do it for love’

Story & photos by Mandy Morgan

MENDON — When Barry and Tawna Fonnesbeck built a greenhouse in their backyard, they never dreamed it would become a fully blossoming business that would be going strong 22 years later. But that is exactly how the only full-time business in Mendon got started.

“It really just started as a back yard hobby,” Tawna said. “That’s why it’s in our backyard.”

The colorful, quaint Fonnesbeck Greenhouse is located about a quarter mile into town at 214 N. 100 West, just off of State Road 23, and besides an out-of-home, when-needed mechanics business is the only profit-making organization in the city.

This doesn’t mean that they don’t get business from outside of the town. They often get customers from places like Wyoming, Oregon, Idaho, and St. George looking for all kinds of trees and plants.

“We just try to do a really good job and tell the truth,” Barry said. “It pays off.”

The nursery goes back from the street about half of a block, and contains greenhouses, organized groupings of shrubs and trees—fruit and otherwise—as well as a large vegetable garden plotted right behind the large house, which is next door to the business.

The couple started out by just giving away plants, but eventually people wanted to pay for them. They built a greenhouse and then another and another, Barry said, and then finally stopped at six. Now, 22 years later, the business is continuing to literally and figuratively bloom as they sell trees, shrubs, perennials, pots, gardening supplies, yard decorations and more.

One way that growth for the business has been possible was through the partnership of other, large nurseries. One particular place that they work with is Iseli Nursery in Boring, Ore. They started out just going up to visit and buy some plants, said Barry, but after establishing a business relationship they now sell a lot of plants provided by Iseli.

“For a lot of these nurseries we go up to get their plants,” Barry said. “And the more you deal with them, the neater the stuff you get.”

Many times the customers that have been come the furthest are the ones hoping to come across the more unique stuff from nurseries like Iseli. “They will come in and ask, ‘Are you the ones with the trees from Oregon?’ and we tell them ‘Yes, we are!’” Barry said.

“We try to have a lot of stuff that’s unusual, a lot of stuff that’s good quality, and a lot of stuff for good prices,” Tawna said.

A tour of the entire property with the late-afternoon sun shining sets the nursery in the best light, with bright flowers flowing from pots, rows of emerald-green trees, and water fountains spotting the grounds.

“He (Barry) really is a green thumb. He can get anything to grow,” Tawna said of her husband. “It’s like he can communicate with the plants.” The most common term that she uses to describe Barry is “green thumb,” due to his knack for growing and nurturing plants of all kinds.

When it comes to the massive hanging flower pots, “he builds them and they’re gorgeous. He and my son have a vision,” Tawna said. A number of the couple’s children help with the nursery, as well as many of the grandchildren.

“It’s family. It’s mostly a family thing,” Tawna said. “We don’t need a lot of employees. We have some teenagers help water, but there isn’t much else for them to help with. It is a seasonal job.”

Besides working the nursery Barry has 65 head of cattle, and Tawna teaches piano lessons. “It’s fun,” she said. “But this is fun too. It’s hard work. You have to be willing to be cold or hot or wet or dirty, but it’s still fun work.”

It’s clear that the Fonnesbecks love what they are doing. Ever since he was a small boy and visited a nursery on North Main in Logan, Barry said he has wanted to work at a nursery.

“We’re crazy for doing it. Anybody who thinks they are gonna put up a nursery and just smell the flowers is crazy,” said Barry. “It’s a 24-hour business. There are bugs, funguses, pests, weather to deal with. It’s no picnic.” The couple work all year round for the upkeep of the nursery, Tawna said, and they don’t plan on stopping with their passion anytime soon.

“You don’t do it for the money,” Tawna said. “You do it cause you love it.”

NW