Meet Your Merchant: Weiss Brothers Nursery evolving with the times
January 19, 2016
KNOW & GO
Weiss Brothers Nursery
615 Maltman Drive, Grass Valley
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday
8:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday
Dwight Weiss sees Nevada County through a very different lens. When he's over at The Rood Center, his eyes go directly to the line of trees leading up to the county building. When he's out at Empire Mine State Historic Park, the first thing that catches his attention is the well-groomed foliage. And, of course, at the fairgrounds there are the marigolds.
"Every giant sequoia in the county is ours, and most of the red maples," he said. "I can spot our trees a mile away."
Dwight and his older brother Marty spent their childhood in the early '60s growing vegetables on their family property off Colfax Highway. From their small roadside farm stand, they sold corn, zucchini, pears, apples and freshly cut flowers. By the time they were old enough to drive, the entrepreneurial spirit had already gotten hold of them, and before long local grocery stores were placing orders for produce.
While a freshman at Nevada Union High School, Dwight planted seedling trees as part of this FFA forestry project, which eventually replaced the abandoned pear and apple orchards on the family's 10 acre parcel. Meanwhile, Marty was studying ornamental horticulture at Sierra College, where he met an Auburn native, Emil Baldoni, who shared his interests.
Since the age of 14, Emil had worked at an Auburn nursery, where he had learned the inner workings of the business and discovered he had a flare for retail. He went on to earn a degree in ornamental horticulture at California Polytechnic State University.
When Marty was on break from college one summer, he and Dwight pooled their earnings and bought the supplies they needed to grow 80,000 seedlings. While many were eventually sold to Christmas tree growers, 30,000 were transplanted onto fields next to their family property. Their first successful venture was selling "mini" Christmas trees to large grocery stores.
Business expanded in 1971, when the brothers decided to become landscape contractors, and began growing the plants and trees that were popular among their clients.
In 1974, the Weiss brothers teamed up with their friend Emil and opened the doors of Weiss Brothers Nursery in Grass Valley. Marty and Emil were 22, and Dwight was just 20. In order to expand inventory, they went on to buy more property to grow plants that do well year round in the foothills and eventually built large greenhouses.
Today, in addition to their retail site on Maltman Drive, which is more than an acre, Dwight and Marty oversee 36 acres off Colfax Highway, which boasts three acres of growing pads and 20,000 square feet of greenhouse, some of which are heated.
"Marty and Dwight do it all out on the property," said Emil, with a laugh. "It works out, because I don't like growing and they don't like selling. We have our separate areas of expertise, but we all get along."
Weiss Brothers Nursery has won "best nursery" in The Union's "Best of Nevada County" for the past 15 years. In addition to their large inventory, Emil offers regular seminars, such as the upcoming one on pruning fruit trees. They contribute to a variety of community causes, including school sports, Scouts and, not surprisingly, FFA.
"We have a wonderful staff here — one employee has been here 30 years, others for 15 or 10," said Dwight. "The loyalty of the staff says a lot about Emil."
"Watching our business transform as the world changes around us has been rewarding," said Emil. "I go to a lot of trade shows and am always learning. We're evolving with the times, and fortunately we're not too old and cranky yet."
"I still love being outdoors and the satisfaction of planting a little seed and seeing what it turns in to," he said. "I'll never get tired of watching something grow."
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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