Tucked away on the side of a winding countryside road in Puyallup is Watson’s Greenhouse and Nursery, a family-run business that officially opened its doors in 1984, but whose roots run a decade deeper. The 32,000-square-foot greenhouse is impossible to miss from the road: Its inviting garden out front, bursting with the color of pansies and peonies, beckons visitors into what can only be described as a plant-lover’s utopia.
Maidee Watson grew up in the business. Her parents started selling plants out of their family garage when she was young and now she serves as the company’s CEO.
“It was a hobby of my dad’s,” Watson said, referring to the U-pick beans and backyard greenhouses her father began tending to in 1974. “He liked growing fuchsia baskets. We’d sell those and produce and some other plants he grew out of our garage. From there, it turned into a little driveway business.”
This laid-back business approach made do until 1984, when Watson and her mother, Fran, decided to officially open a retail site that would extend beyond the length of their driveway. In the same location where the business still is located — but in a much smaller structure — the two opened Watson’s Greenhouse and Nursery in earnest while Dan continued to teach. The family was completely unaware of how popular it would become.
“We didn’t think anyone would come on that first day,” Watson said. “And then they did. It was so exciting.”
Six years later, Watson’s father, Dan — whose “hobby out of control” is what started it all — quit his job and came on board in the family business. In 1993, Watson’s sister, Terri Elliott, also joined the company and started running the gift side of the business.
“The third generation is making their way in now, too,” Watson said. “All three of my sons work here, and my sister’s daughter works here as well. (They) have worked their way up and done some of everything, from carrying out to filling pots to cashiering. That’s kind of our philosophy in the family, is that we’ve all done everything here because we work side by side with our staff.”
This third generation ranges from 19 to 31 years old and fills roles from business technology manager to COO. The plan, Watson said, is to have them take over when she and her sister step down. This spirit of family commitment — and the longevity of the business — is what sets Watson’s apart, both for customers and staff.
“We have a very strong family culture in this business,” Watson said. “My parents did an amazing job in really cultivating that, and my sister and I have really tried to carry that over. That’s something that’s really important to us.”
The sisters work hard to honor the traditions established by their parents, especially their mother, who died last year. Every 10 years, Fran honored longtime employees checking off another decade with Watson’s — there are quite a few — with a thoughtful gift; her daughters have continued to do the same. They also bake a cherry pie for the store on Feb. 22, George Washington’s birthday.
“That’s just something our mom did every year for my sister and I for our entire lives,” Watson laughed. “She also made pie for the company, so now we do it. We want to keep alive those things she did to make this a family. And we want to honor her memory and keep those important traditions going.”