For eight decades, Berridge Nurseries has helped Phoenicians beautify their homes with premium plants, trees, and the widest selection of roses in the Valley.
But florae weren’t the only forms of life growing up at the Arcadia-area nursery.
Sisters Melinda Walton and Christine Fortman now run the nursery started by their grandfather James Berridge Jr. in 1938. They spent much of their childhood in the nursery, having as much fun as kids in a, well, nursery.
“I remember running around and being pushed around on customer carts. I’m sure my mother didn’t approve of it,” Melinda says while laughing. “In high school, we worked the cash register.”
Their grandfather launched Berridge when he was 20, at the onset of an emerging horticulture industry and awareness of landscaping’s role in housing values in a residential segment that was picking up steam. At the time, competition in the landscape space was practically non-existent.
“It all kind of went hand-in-hand,” Melinda says.
James’ daughter Meredith Walton, Melinda and Christine’s mother, was also young when she started at Berridge, propagating seeds. The passion for plants is strong as a pedigree, propelling this family business into rare air with a third generation at the helm. Meredith continues to serve as the company’s president, and several employees have been there for at least 15 years, with one at 48 years.
“Our grandfather set the tone early on for the family environment. We continue to work to safeguard this business for our community and dedicated employees and their families, and to honor our history and grandfather and mother’s legacy,” Melinda says.
Melinda and Christine have seen the business through a recession, competition, and other factors beyond their control.
“It’s tremendous to have 82 years of not only good but poor economies, that prepare us for knowing that nothing is ever going to stay the same and to plan accordingly,” Melinda says.
Knowing the employees and consistent inventory keeps customers coming back is what distinguishes Berridge from competitors who lack personalized service and in-depth knowledge of what thrives and does not in the desert.
Customers also come to Berridge for inspiration. Pottery, statuary, fountains, indoor flowering plants, and a seasonal section filled with décor and gifts helps customers envision what could be.
“Often, other nurseries and big box stores look more like growing grounds, with rows and rows of plants. Our environment is really a garden setting. You can come here and become inspired as to what your home could look like,” Melinda says.
Customers hail from nearby, and as far as Sun City West and Queen Creek. Some came here as kids with their parents, and return as adults with their children.
“It gives you more of a small town feel… plants enhance your life and we feel we help them do that,” Melinda says. “You’re not just a business, you are supporting a community and their needs.”