This awesome article about us was published in the Shawnee Magazine’s fall/winter issue. Lookin’ good, Jonah and Jesse!
Eric Nelson’s father, Ron, chose horticulture over dentistry at Kansas State University nearly 50 years ago and started Family Tree Nursery. Eric, who ha been at the helm of the operation since 2007, now shares a unique common bond with his sons that he enjoyed with his dad: working side-by-side in the family business.
The successful Family Tree Nursery, with three retail locations throughout Kansas City, including Shawnee, Overland Park and Liberty, and a growing facility in Kansas City, Kansas, has more than 100 full- and part-time employees. That roster of plant geeks, as Eric likes to call the passionate folks who work at Family Tree Nursery, can swell up to 200 or more during peak seasonal periods.
Eric’s interest in nurturing plants started early in life, but it wasn’t until his sophomore year at K-State that he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt his studies in horticulture with an emphasis on greenhouse management were the right fit.
“At age 6 or 7, my dad told me I understood how to water plants better than some of his mature help,” recalls Eric. “I read botany and plants books growing up, and I think I knew something was up as far as my involvement in the family business, but it wasn’t until my second year in college that I realized I had never considered any other job than the family business.”
Now two of his three sons, Jonah, 26, and Jesse, 24, work alongside him in a business that has survived and thrived over the decades despite economic downturns and the advent of mega-stores and large garden centers that sell plants. One of the keys to Family Tree Nursery’s positive growth over the years, including a rock-solid reputation for quality and genuine customer service, is a simple philosophy that Eric — and by osmosis, the rest of the company — lives by.
“Don’t let family get in the way of good business,” says Eric. “Family Tree Nursery has an excellent policy manual that specifically doesn’t favor family. Everyone here has to abide by the same policies regardless.”
Jonah followed in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, attending K-State’s horticulture program. Jesse studied international marketing and sales at K-State and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Eric’s oldest son, Josiah, 27, isn’t in the business, but he is a driven entrepreneur like his father and siblings, running a small coffee roaster.
Ron still acts as an adviser to Eric, who is owner and manager of Family Tree Nursery’s production facility while he has the pleasure of watching his own sons’ skill sets flourish — sometimes through trial and error.
“The commitment and love we have for one another gets us through any rough patch in the roaed,” says Eric.