Farewell to a Landmark

If you had dared to hope that the former Sam Stringer Chickasaw Gardens nursery at 2974 Poplar would be bought by another garden center, consider that hope dashed to dirt. Although Sam Stringer Jr. couldn't say who's buying the property — located in a prime area near Chickasaw Gardens and the Benjamin Hooks Library — he does acknowledge that it's under contract and should close in July. Others knowledgeable about the deal identify the buyer as a national discount retailer.

Stringer decided to sell the center in 2008 and concentrate on the Germantown location. While waiting on a buyer, he continued to keep part of the nursery open. In 2009, he leased the property to Mike Earnest, owner of Midtown Nursery at Central and Cooper, who has used it as a second location for the past two years. Earnest will continue to operate at Stringer's at least through May and possibly into June. “We're open here for awhile longer, and we encourage folks to come on in,” says Earnest.

When Earnest leaves, gardeners in that area will be driving farther to buy their trees and topsoil, petunias and potting soil, mums and mulch. The neighborhoods closest to Stringer's lie just east of midtown and just west of East Memphis proper. Residents will burn up more gas heading to Dan West, Home Depot, Lowe's, or Midtown nurseries.“We're just two miles west,” says Earnest, speaking of his Central Avenue location. “We're doing a good business and we hope to get the shoppers who used to come here.”

Stringer's, which was founded in 1943, opened at Hollywood and Poplar but has been at the current site for several decades. To many area residents, the three-acre business was a target destination for everything from bedding plants and garden ornaments, to jack-o-lanterns and Christmas trees. Sarah Green, who lives in the East Buntyn area just five minutes from Stringer's for 35 years, recalls many a springtime Saturday selecting flowers, shrubs, and hanging baskets. “When they announced they were selling it [in 2008] it made me want to cry,” Green recalls. “It helped that Midtown Nursery has been using it. But now, to know it's really closing, that makes me sad all over again.”

On a sunnier note, Stringer is donating the greenhouse to Urban Farms in Binghamton. Also, the national retailer who's reported to be buying the property does have garden centers at some locations. But Green speaks for many shoppers when she says, “It'll never be like Stringer's.”

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