Hicks Nurseries…Six Generations of Loving Gardens as Much as You Do.
One of the trickiest professional accomplishments is to successfully transfer a family business from one generation to the next. Very few small businesses make this transition past one generation. Hicks Nurseries has overcome many obstacles and has been able to not only survive, but thrive as an industry leader and a vital part of the Long Island gardening and landscape community – through six generations. And throughout the past 160 years, nobody has helped more gardeners succeed in more ways than Hicks.
The Hicks family started farming on Long Island as early as the late 1600s, but it was in 1853 that the business that was to become Hicks Nurseries, Inc. had its beginnings. Isaac Hicks began selling trees to his neighbors and he named his new company Isaac Hicks and Son. Since the first sale, Hicks Nurseries has maintained its reputation for providing carefully selected, top quality plant material. Each succeeding generation of the business has left its stamp on the nursery, responding to the current horticultural needs of the Long Island community.
At the turn of the century, Isaac’s son Edward, who taught at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, invented and patented the equipment for moving big trees that were desired by Long Island’s new estate owners. Full grown trees – sometimes in full leaf – were carefully extracted from the earth and taken primarily to the Gold Coast mansions, where many still flourish today. Many of the most famous estates that included the Vanderbilt, JP Morgan and the Phipps (which is currently Old Westbury Gardens), coveted the unique landscaping services that Hicks offered in the early 1900’s.
Edward’s son Henry was the first college-trained horticulturist in the family business and he became a premier botanist. After receiving his degree from the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell, Henry returned to Westbury, where he specialized in studying the suitability of new plants from Europe and Asia for the Long Island environment. He kept up a wide correspondence with the leading horticulturists of the day. One such correspondent was the chief plant explorer for the US Department of Agriculture, Frank Meyer, who roamed the earth looking for new plants. Whenever he came upon a new plant, he sent three back to the US. One went to the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland; one went to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston; and one went to Henry Hicks in Westbury. The cross-breeding of plants from different parts of the world was Henry’s forte, the best known of which is the Hicks Yew (Taxus x media Hicksii). This plant became – and remains today – one of the most widely used plants in the landscape industry throughout North America. One of these original plants remains in the parking area of Hicks Nurseries.
William and Edwin Hicks (Henry’s sons) kept the business on an even keel during the Depression years. Around 1930, in an innovative move, William made pre-dug plants available for customers. This marked the beginning of the walk-in, cash and carry customer business that developed into what is now called a retail garden center.
In the 1960s, with western Long Island’s evolution from a rural to a suburban community complete, Edwin’s son Alfred (Fred) saw the need to refocus the business in order to keep pace with the new generation of Long Islanders. At that time there were still 245 acres of nursery production in Westbury. Fred kept the best of what was already established, and over the next ten years converted the nursery into a thriving family-oriented retailing and growing operation that served hundreds of thousands of people each year. Garden center owners from across the country visit every year to get ideas.
Two of Fred’s children, Karen and Stephen, are now actively involved in the management of the company. They represent the sixth generation of the family business.
Today, along with a wide variety of high quality trees, annuals, perennials, and houseplants, the nursery carries tools, seeds, fertilizers, decorative and gift items, casual furniture, silk flowers and arrangements, books, and other garden ornaments.
When discussing the goals of today’s generation, company president Stephen Hicks states: “Our business philosophy has remained the same for 160 years, but we continue to adjust our services to meet the changing needs of Long Island. In 2008, we started our Commercial Sales division to better serve the area’s quality-oriented landscape contractors. We have been very happy with the professional response.”
Mr. Hicks continued: “We were delighted to announce the opening of Hicks Landscapes at our retail location. This service allows us to professionally approach landscape design solutions for the homeowner, which is really going back to our roots.”
The year at Hicks Nurseries is punctuated by special events that are especially anticipated by our customers. For example, the annual ten-day Spring Flower and Garden Show that runs over two weekends in March draws tens of thousands to see our display gardens and hear lectures by outstanding specialists. There are two seasonal animated shows for children that are eagerly anticipated, particularly the Halloween show featuring ‘Otto the Ghost’.
The nursery and the Hicks family are committed to helping gardeners, homeowners and landscape professionals. For 160 years, we have been dedicated to offering peerless, expert advice, providing outstanding selection and making gardening success easy. For everyone.