(Schilling’s Garden Market | Photo by Kenneth Marunowski)
The local Tumalo community and, to a lesser extent perhaps, that of Bend are well acquainted with the former Schilling’s Solar City Gardens. As many past patrons are likely aware, a death in the Schilling’s family forced the business to close in the spring of 2016, which left a void in both the physical location and the emotional hearts of the local community. In May 2018, however, Joe and Melinda Nichols, fourteen-year residents of Tumalo who live adjacent to the property and long-time customers of Schilling’s Solar City Gardens, purchased the former business with the aim to revitalize it in ways that both preserve what was and reconceive what it can become. On April 20, 2019, Earth Day weekend just a few short months ago, the Nichols opened Schilling’s Garden Market initiating the crucial first steps in realizing their vision for reinstating a business that served as a community standard for quite some time.
Small scale farmers themselves as well as owners of Mountain Sky Landscaping, Inc., Joe and Melinda began with what one would expect from a garden center: lovely hanging baskets of flowers, delectable vegetables and tasty herbs, an ever-changing variety of trees and shrubs, essential gardening tools, and various fertilizers and soil amendments. Complementing such staples are more novelty items like hard-to-find herbs, unique vegetables, particular flowers intended to attract beneficial insects to one’s garden, bee-keeping supplies as well as those for goats and chickens, plus local artisan products from the likes of Farmhouse Candles, Metolius Teas, Hardenbrook Hardwoods and Bend Soap Company. Add to this list a fine selection of books aimed to satisfy “both the plant nerd and discerning palate,” and you have discovered essential components of the Nichols’ master plan intended to “bring Schilling’s back to life!” (schillingsgardenmarket.com)
While enjoying a garden tour with Melinda, she reflected upon fond memories of her children picnicking with grandma and grandpa by the pirate ship of the former locale. She also noted some of the dinosaur sculptures and old western storefront facades that dotted the property, remnants of its prehistoric meets wild western theme. Although the pirate ship has sailed and many of the dinosaurs have gone extinct, Melinda seeks to rekindle the family-friendly vibe of the property so that people can once again come not only to shop for their garden and farming necessities, but also to bask in the sunshine, enjoy views of the mountains, and simply relax in an inspiring and beautiful environment. She imagines events like live music, perhaps a beer garden (this is Oregon!), a small amphitheatre, and expansion of the classes that currently coincide in content with the change of seasons. Much of this vision, Melinda readily admits, resides in the distant future, but to generate and maintain such a vision in the first place is always what makes dreams come true.
General Manager Gwen Bartonek, who specializes in edible landscape design and advocates for the Vermont-famous farm-to-table lifestyle, notes another important aspect of realizing a business beyond one’s intentions for it. She states the importance of taking good care of the land and being quiet enough to respond to its needs. “We’re just listening to the property,” Gwen reveals; “we’re the caretakers, and the property itself and the needs of the customers dictate what we do.” In fact, Gwen admits that “much of what we imagined Schilling’s to be when we opened has changed.” Such a Buddhist-like approach to business, especially a business so intimately connected to the land that sustains it, reinforces the harmonious relationship all members of Schilling’s Garden Market seek to establish in this new enterprise.
From its high desert country setting and sweeping mountain vistas to its ponds of water lilies, miscellaneous garden sculptures and various tree-themed greenhouses such as the Cottonwood that keep the plants thriving, Schilling’s merits a visit whether in the market for specific products or just for sheer enjoyment. A service-focused business, management encourages its customers to visit regularly and see what’s new. As their website proposes, if you don’t see what you need, “contact us and we’ll do our best to help you find it!” Clearly dedicated to supporting the local community and with a profound respect for the past and a keen eye toward the future, Schilling’s Garden Market is beautifully poised in the present, listening closely to the land and to you so that your landscaping vision, edible, aesthetic or otherwise, may too come to fruition.