CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN Tyler (right) and Todd (center) Waye are following in the footsteps of their father, Gary, as second-generation owners and operators of Fox Garden Supply.
Family-owned businesses run on trust –and sometimes that means telling a customer not to buy whatever plant or product they’ve just set down next to the cash register.
At Fox’s Garden Supply, that can mean people wanting to buy flowering shrubs too early in the spring or tomato plants too late.
“We’ve been here a long time and people trust that we know what grows in Pueblo and what doesn’t,” explained Gary Waye, whose family has owned the well-known garden store at 329 S. Santa Fe Ave., since 1952.
Back then, Earl and Aileen Fox had already tried their hand at house-painting and then owning a grocery store. That’s when they turned to selling yard and garden supplies, plus a selection of gifts.
“I know my grandfather was a painter during the Depression and they gave that up for the grocery business,” he said.
But the garden supply business took root, so to speak.
It did well enough that Gary Waye’s parents, Howard and Barbara (Fox) Waye, took the reins in 1968 and then passed them on to Gary and his wife, Lillian, in 1981.
In fact, Fox’s is about to be handed to the fourth generation — Gary’s sons, Tyler and Todd Waye.
“They’ve been running the business for awhile now anyway,” joked their father.
The two sons –Tyler is 32 and Todd 28 –are clearly at home in the store they grew up in. They’ve hauled the plants and fertilizer and tree saplings and mulch for years.
“I lived in Fort Collins for a few years and was thinking about becoming an engineer,” said Tyler. “But I knew I was comfortable right here in the family store.”
Todd said much the same.
“I’ve always thought I’d be working here in the future,” he said.
Garden stores are quiet, like bookstores, but they are as fragile as any small business.
“Oh, we worry about the weather,” Tyler laughed. “If it’s too dry, people aren’t going to plant in their gardens.”
And too wet can do its share of damage, too.
“We had the warmest February I can ever remember last year and the coldest May,” Gary said, recalling the tree-breaking snows that shocked the region.
There is the fear that another big box retail store, like a Lowe’s or Home Depot, might open with their acres of plants, flowers, trees and such.
“That’s where our local knowledge can make a difference,” Gary Waye said.
Like those supposedly cold-weather azaleas that always look so pretty on the shelf? Tyler shook his head just slightly.
“The conditions in your yard have to be just about perfect for those to live,” he advised.
The boys know that there is little down-time when you own your own store, their father said.
“But I put it to them this way — you can work 40 hours a week for someone else or 60 hours a week for yourself,” he smiled. “They know the difference.”