Nursery owner recalls success of 50-year business
If you met Dave Davis, you’d never guess that he was turning 85 this fall. Davis has been the owner and operator of Queen City Nursery on Harlem Road for more than 50 years. Davis was originally a chemist and worked for DuPont, but as he recalls, he didn’t enjoy it. He got his start in the garden business at Rosedale Nursery in White Plains, N.Y.
“I was a wild college kid with lots of ideas. I was antagonizing people,” he recalled of his time at Rosedale. After one confrontation too many, he got fired. But the experience galvanized him. He asked himself: “If I can do it for them, why can’t I do it for myself?” He returned to the area and entered into business for himself. He purchased Queen City Nursery when its previous owner was in a car accident. That was in 1954, and he’s still going strong.
Queen City is distinctive among local nurseries for the amount of statuary it carries. Davis stocks a broad array of statuary from around the world, including Italy and Java. He carries a little bit of everything, from the traditional types of statuary to the more unusual. He also stocks cordwood and operates a floral business, which carries the business through the winter months.
“I’ve just been having fun,” Davis says. “People say, ‘Yo u should retire.’ I say, ‘Why should I?’”
Davis has seen a lot of changes in the 56 years he has owned Queen City Nursery. He notes that the roundabouts on Harlem Road especially have changed the feel of the area. But some things remain constant. Many of his customers have been with him from the beginning, and his secretary has worked with him for 30 years.
Davis has many interests outside of his nursery. He is a season ticket holder for the Buffalo Philharmonic. He has traveled internationally, most recently to Jerusalem. He is president of the Niagara Chapter of the Amateur Athletic Union, which works with more than 9,000 athletes. He has attended the Montreal, Seoul and Beijing Olympic Games. Last year, he helped bring into being the Davis Gallery at Houghton House at Hobart College. Davis chronicles his activities in “annual reports” that he sends to more than 200 people every year.
“Every day, talking to customers is a learning experience for me,” he said. “Nature is so beautiful. The delicacy of one flower, the intricacy. That’s what keeps me going.”