Michael McCormic Jr
For Clark County Today
VANCOUVER — Hayes Family Growers is the epitome of a small family business.
When customers drive up to the retail nursery, some are surprised to see a house on the property as well. The nurserymen, made up of members of the Hayes family, come and go between the house and the garden, and perfect strangers cannot help but feel welcome by the relaxed and casual setting.
Clifford Hayes, owner and founder, has been in the business of growing in some form or fashion nearly his whole life. His interest was piqued at the ripe age of six.
“It started back probably when I was six years old with the idea that I could grow watermelons. That was my first thing I ever grew,” Hayes remembers.
Watermelons soon became corn, corn soon became pumpkins, and pumpkins soon became tomatoes. By the age of 16, Hayes had developed such a passion and ability for growing that he knew it was what he wanted to do the rest of his life.
“My parents, on their half acres, let me build a greenhouse,” he says. “At that point, I started growing geraniums and tomatoes, just as a hobby.”
Hayes went on to work at a wholesale nursery in Felida during his later high-school years. He then worked his way through the ranks of Bishop Garden Center, a retail nursery that has since been bought by Shorty’s Nursery. Eventually, Hayes found himself as the head manager, a position he held for 13 years.
It was after his tenure as head manager that Hayes began his own wholesale operation. Then, about 10 years ago, members of the Hayes family decided to add retail to their business model as well.
“It’s been a long ten years,” Hayes explains. “We’ve had lots of success. We had a downturn in the economy, which brought success, as well, because when you don’t have anything else to do, when things are tough, you want to grow vegetable plants and go back to the yard.”
Hayes values the fact that his business is a mom-and-pop retail store, not only because he is proud of the nursery’s success, but also because he values the time he spends with his wife and kids.
On the subject of learning how to navigate the nursery business with his family, Hayes says, “I have quite a bit of knowledge, and so does my son. He helps with this, and my wife does, too.”
Even after graduating from college, some of the Hayes children still come back to the nursery on occasion to help their father. Hayes’s oldest daughter currently works in the medical field, but that does not stop her from coming to the nursery on a busy day. While most of his children are currently in college and none are studying horticulture or planning on going into the nursery business, their father claims they have all developed a “fondness for gardening.”
As a man who loves what he does, Hayes claims that the two most rewarding parts of his job are pleasing his customers and achieving success. When he says “success,” he does not mean it in terms of earnings or business growth, but rather, he takes pride in the success of his product. When a plant or project turns out the way he had envisioned, that, according to Hayes, is one of his favorite parts about working in the nursery.
“To me, it’s doing what I like doing and having success at it,” says Hayes. “Enjoying customers, visiting with neighbors; that’s one of the big and most important things of a mom-and-pop local neighborhood nursery is that you’ll see your neighbors here and meet neighbors you didn’t even know you had.”
Hayes Family Growers, located at 3004 NE 182nd Ave. in Vancouver, sells flowers, shrubs, vegetables, berry bushes, and plant pots. According to Clifford Hayes, the business specializes in hanging flower baskets.
“We grow them where the idea is that we want you to have success with the basket so you’ll come back and buy more and tell your friends,” he says.
The nursery is closed annually throughout the month of August, which gives the Hayes family time to prepare for the fall season and take a well-deserved family vacation.
Visit Hayes Family Growers on Facebook or go to www.hayesfamilygrowers.com for more information.