Ownership of one of Columbia County's most popular garden centers has recently changed hands.
For David and Donna Bokesch, owning and operating the Green Thumb West Nursery and Garden Center is a dream come true.
"It has been a dream of ours all of our married lives, 33 years of married life," Mrs. Bokesch said. ''We knew that one day we'd like to own our own nursery. This was always our favorite pastime; ever since we were newlyweds, we liked to go to garden centers."
Taking over ownership of an area garden institution could not have been a better opportunity for the couple, they said.
Green Thumb has occupied a lot near the corner of Davis and Washington roads for 27 years. It started there as the second location of the original Green Thumb garden center, which opened in 1951 behind Daniel Village in Augusta. The Bokesches bought the business from Barbara Botts on Aug. 24 and began running the business with all the current employees Aug. 25, Mr. Bokesch said.
The Bokesches say they plan to continue the legacy of the business.
"I promised we'd keep it in business for another 51 years," Mr. Bokesch said with a smile.
The Bokesches decided not to change staff because they said the higher level of service provided by the employees is one of the main reasons people love coming to Green Thumb.
"The staff is very knowledgeable and very professional and very courteous," Mrs. Bokesch said. "And that is the difference between us and the box stores.''
The Bokesches have asked the employees for suggestions, which resulted in many more product displays of flowers, fountains and statuary to showcase not only the individual items available but also what they can be when combined with imagination.
"They are really doing a nice display of things to the point where they set something up and it sells right away," Mr. Bokesch said.
The one thing the couple has been doing during the long seven-day work weeks since taking over the garden center is updating the facility. The garden center's front sidewalk, formerly used as a storage area for pallets of mulch, soil and compost, boasts cafe table sets, fountains and potted plants.
They also painted the front of the building to spruce it up.
"We wanted to give it curb appeal, make it warm and welcoming for the customers," Mrs. Bokesch said.
Though some outdoor and indoor changes have taken place, the Bokesches want to assure their customers that the many reasons they were loyal to Green Thumb are still evident.
"We just want the top quality," Mr. Bokesch said. "You've always heard good, better and best. We only want better and best."
Mrs. Bokesch agreed.
"We have a lot of discriminating customers and knowledgeable customers," she said. "So they do expect the same quality that they have been accustomed to and we plan to keep that going."
What the Bokesches are not accustomed to is operating a nursery. Both took early retirement to take over Green Thumb. Mrs. Bokesch retired from Riverside Middle School after 13 years as a counselor. Mr. Bokesch opted for the voluntary separation at Savannah River Site, where he was a demolition project manager.
The couple is planning for a grand reopening ceremony this month to kickoff the Christmas season. Until then, the couple plans to keep up the long days revamping the building and getting used to the business.
"It's so therapeutic," Mrs. Bokesch said. "In the troubling times we live in, it's so wonderful for mind, body and spirit to get up and get outside.''
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