Merrifield Garden Center is the story of two families and a dream.
It began when Bob Warhurst, a hard-working young man with a can-do attitude from humble beginnings in Alabama, was ahead of his time, realizing the need to service the growing population of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area with quality plants.
Bob told Buddy Williams, his neighbor and friend in Vienna, Virginia, about his plan to start a garden center and nursery – and asked if he wanted to join him. Buddy, who enjoyed plants and working outside as much as Bob, quickly agreed.
“I think drive comes from believing you can do something,” says Bob, who left his rural Alabama home, where work was scarce, as a teenager to move to Northern Virginia to make his way in life.
The great adventure for Bob and his wife, Billie Jean, and Buddy and his wife, Doris, was about to begin. Soon after their daring decision, Bob, who owned a trash collection business and an antique and second-hand store called “The Trading Post,” and Buddy, a fireman in Fairfax County, hopped in a pick-up truck and drove around Northern Virginia to stake out locations to build their dream nursery. They spotted undeveloped land at the corner of Lee Highway and Gallows Road, just outside the Capital Beltway in Merrifield.
“The moment we saw it, we knew we found the right place,” said Buddy who passed away on July 20, 2011.
Merrifield Garden Center opened in the spring of 1971 with a quaint red barn, a small store and less than an acre of plants. It started incredibly small, but with the highest of standards. From the very beginning, Bob and Buddy emphasized outstanding customer service, exceptional quality and superior selection. These old-school principles are still paramount today. But they’re combined with 21st century business practices.
Now, more than 40 years later, Merrifield Garden Center has expanded to become one of the largest and most complete nurseries in the country with three locations – the original site in Merrifield, a second location in Fairfax and a third in Gainesville, Virginia.
We’re proud to have been recognized with numerous awards and accolades over the years. In addition to serving the needs of home gardeners, we provide beautiful plants and horticultural expertise to many local, state and federal government agencies as well as schools, commercial properties, golf courses and park authorities.
As we’ve grown, we’ve never forgotten our modest roots and we’re more passionate than ever to be in the beauty business and help our customers achieve their dreams. After nearly 40 years, you’ll still find our owners exchanging handshakes and hugs with long-time customers, answering gardening questions, stocking shelves and handling any job that needs to be done.
When you visit Merrifield Garden Center, there’s a good chance the person assisting you is either a Warhurst or a Williams. That’s because 32 members of the two families are employed here. Family members grow up learning plants and the importance of taking care of customers. Later, they branch off into Merrifield careers that suit their individual talents and interests.
“An important part of the Merrifield culture is the sense of family – friendly and down-to-earth,” Bob says. “We think our unique family dynamics translates into better customer service.”
Bob and Billie Jean’s five children – Debbie, Rob, Larry, Donny and Kevin – work at the nursery. So do four of their 11 grandchildren. Three of the children’s spouses – Rob, Lynn and Chris – also work at Merrifield, having left careers in other fields to join the family business. And Bob’s brother, Carl, works here along with Carl’s wife, Sheila, and their four children.
Buddy and Doris’ three children – Wanda, Hal and Kim – work here, too, as do two of their three grandchildren. Two of the children’s spouses – Susan and Dustin – also work at Merrifield. And Dustin’s mother, Jean Myers, has been here for more than 20 years. Doris’ brother, Dan, works at Merrifield, along with his wife, Sandy, and their daughter.
During our busiest seasons, Merrifield Garden Center has an extended family of over 750 employees who are dedicated to providing our customers with unparalleled service and expertise. Merrifield Garden Center is fortunate to have a terrific management team and 25 employees who have worked at Merrifield for 25 years or more.
At Merrifield Garden Center, we realize that what has made our company successful is our customers. We want to thank you for your patronage. And we want you to know that we’ll continue to work hard every day to earn your business.