Sit a spell

Pull up a chair and the Garden Shoppe n’ Bar

OLD CHARM Marci Huston’s Garden Shoppe n’ Bar combines a garden shop, nursery and bar all in a 150-year-old house. Photo: Robert Eliason

There’s a sense of calm that washes over you while visiting Marci Huston’s Garden Shoppe n’ Bar.

Maybe it’s the wicker rocking-chairs that rest on the front porch. Or the eye-popping arrangements of flowers and succulents as you walk throughout the house.

Or maybe it’s even the yard out back—clad with tables, chairs and a fenced off area where Huston hosts many of her plant classes.

Though Huston had hoped to find a more enclosed property—one that would house more of her plants—she’s become smitten with the 150-year-old house.

“I’m kind of in love with it,” she says.

What initially started as a plant boutique where Huston could run classes for kids and adults, and have a place to host “Plant Nights” (all of which Huston still does), the shop has evolved into something unexpected.

And with its attributes still growing—a garden shop, a nursery, and a bar—The Garden Shoppe n’ Bar isn’t your usual flower shop.

But, then again, Huston isn’t your usual business owner.

Originally from Los Angeles, Huston has always had a green thumb.

After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Business from California Polytechnic State University SLO, and then her MBA from Santa Clara University, Huston worked as a plant broker for a company in El Centro, California.

Eventually, that company sold their business to Sunseeds in Hollister, which is what led Huston to move to Hollister in 1987.

And now, she says, “I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

Huston raised her three children, Jamie, Nick, and Mitch in Hollister, and all have helped her in business ventures.

Mitch, who manages the bar at the shop, says her children wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We’re willing to help,” he says. “She’s worked hard, and I think she deserves this. And because she likes to work, and with the amount of work that she’s done in raising us, I think it’s fair that we repay her.”

They began by helping when Huston opened The GardenMart nursery in 2010, once a friend suggested to her she open one with the closing of Target’s garden section.

“The GardenMart was supposed to be this little seasonal thing, and it just never shut down,” Huston says. “It’s only been getting bigger. We grew everything on Spring Grove Road, and we tried to have a sales yard on San Benito Street, and then we moved it all back.”

The GardenMart is still an active nursery on 410 Spring Grove Road. But so is The Garden Shoppe n’ Bar.

“What’s unique about this shop versus any other kind of garden store is the fact that we are on the nursery,” Huston says. “The whole place is planted with probably at minimum 300 plants. And all our plants are acclimated to Hollister, which means if you plant a plant, they are going to live. So all the containers, everything that’s for sale, are the plants we’ve grown.”

Huston says, for any guests or customers who enjoy the ambience of the grounds at the Garden Shoppe n’ Bar and want to achieve the same look, GardenMart’s landscape concierge service can offer their services to help them landscape their homes using their plants.

And Huston, the daughter of a beer distributor, has a background in the wine and beer business. Her first job, at 14 years old, was driving forklifts, loading beer trucks, and calling customers.

“So I wasn’t afraid at all of getting a beer and wine license,” she says.

Equipped with a handicapped entrance, both the shop and the bar are open seven days a week, from 10am to “when it’s dark.”

“If people are here, then we stay. I don’t have a closing time, but legally, I have to be shut by 10,” she explains.

The bar serves beer, as well as an array of local and organic wines. Guests can sit in the backyard patio, talk among friends, or even choose a board game from the assortment Huston provides. Yet due to drinking laws, guests can’t bring their beverages inside the shop.

And to help foster the relaxing ambience and horticultural therapy Huston offers through her classes, she refuses to bring media onto the property.

“I don’t want TVs,” she says. “This is a place to just come and relax. We want people to come in for the experience.”

At the moment, Huston is offering weekly succulent classes posted on her Facebook site. She also takes reservations for private events or parties, where she charges per person for up to 60 guests.

“We already had a wine tasting event,” she says. “We can do birthday parties for kids; we can pretty much do anything. Catering to anybody’s budget basically. And because we don’t sell food, we encourage people to bring food in.”

That is, unless, you attend an event hosted by Huston.

One future event Huston is looking forward to is a Kentucky Derby party she’s hosting on May 4.

“I have it set up as an event on Facebook—we’re going all out for that,” she says. “We’re charging $20 and having a chef make Kentucky-style southern foods.”

With the $20 ticket, guests will get raffle tickets to place horse bets. And there will be prizes given for best hat and best outfit.

“I’ve already bought everything for it and it’s like three months from now,” Huston laughs. “This place is going to be continuously having events.”

For instance, the day after her derby party will be the Hollister Downtown Association’s Wine and Beer Stroll. The Garden Shoppe n’ Bar will be hosting Grillin and Chillin Ale House.

“Basically, they will shut down the place for it,” Huston says. “The whole property during that event is over 21 years old, so I’m kind of excited because then people will be able to walk around and look at the shop.”

Chuck Frowein, owner of Grillin and Chillin Alehouse in Hollister, helped Huston make contacts with beer and wine distributors after meeting her at the ale house.

“My wife and her friends have enjoyed being over there in the patio—people really enjoy the relaxed atmosphere,” Frowein says. “She seems like a good entrepreneur. It’s definitely going to be great for downtown, it’ll be a little Napa. People can hop among the bars and businesses.”

Mike Fisher, who owns Fisher’s Restaurant in Hollister, agrees.

“I’m very excited for this business,” Fisher says. “A unique business like this, particularly in downtown Hollister, is the type that attracts tourism. It gives that much more reason for people to stay downtown and spend money.”

As for Huston, she’s excited to see what’s next for this this quaint house.

“The place has a lot of potential; a lot of possibilities,” she says. “I couldn’t even predict this—and certainly three months from now, who knows what’s going to be going on here!”

Visit the “Garden Shoppe n’ Bar” at 364 Seventh Street in Hollister. For more information about classes and upcoming events, visit the The GardenShoppe on Facebook or call 831.801.6049.

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