Dream blossoms for Park City Nursery’s new owners
Sophy Kohler and husband Grady aim to foster a welcoming atmosphere
When Sophy Kohler moved to Utah eight years ago, she immediately fell in love with the Park City Nursery. A flower enthusiast, it reminded her of spending time in her grandparents’ garden growing up. She imagined one day owning it.
“I just sort of fantasized about buying it from the get-go,” she said.
At the time, it was just a dream. She figured that if she were to ever own the nursery, it would happen well in the future. But that changed one day when on a whim she asked the owners, Steve and Ann Barrett, whether they’d ever consider parting with the property. Kohler wasn’t in a position to make an offer, but they were amenable to the idea.
A year later, in June of 2016, she broached the topic again. Six months of negotiations later, Kohler and her husband Grady purchased the nursery the day after Christmas.
“It was a good way to ring in the New Year,” she said.
So far, running the nursery has lived up to her expectations. And while she said the gardening supplies and plants will always be the focus, the plan is to supplement them with other offerings to transform the nursery into a new kind of business. For instance, they renovated a historic homestead building on the property into a rustic retail space with boutique goods. In the future, they also intends to open an old-style general store in another building nearby that she said once served the same purpose generations ago.
As part of that, the Kohlers will also expand the nursery’s operating season. Historically, she said, the nursery is dormant from the end of December through April. But with the new retail space, she sees an opportunity to remain open year-round.
“These buildings haven’t been utilized,” she said. “They’ve been used for office and storage, but they haven’t been open to the public. But we are lucky enough to have some of the oldest surviving original homesteads around.”
Another priority has been fixing up other parts of the property that have not been used in recent years. Kohler’s vision is to provide space for people to spend time even when they’re not shopping. She imagines Parkites from all over town visiting for an afternoon picnic or cozying up with a book next to the stream that runs through the property.
The nursery provides such a sense of tranquility and peace for Kohler that she wants everyone who steps onto the property to experience it, as well.
“I’ve always lived in a city, and as you explore cities, you find some achievement in finding these special spots and cool little sanctuaries that you seek out,” she said. “I don’t know — I guess I’m just dialed in to finding those and creating those.”
But along with the changes in store for the nursery, customers can expect many things to stay the same. Kohler doesn’t plan to scale back the gardening offerings, and Christmas trees and wreaths, for example, will still be available during the holidays as they’ve always been.
Convincing longtime customers that the spirit of the nursery would remain under their ownership was one of the biggest challenges the Kohlers faced in the beginning. But she said they’ve earned the respect of their clientele, who now understand that they have good intentions for the property.
“In a small mountain town, any change in ownership is a little bit threatening,” she said. “People didn’t trust that we were keeping it a nursery, for example. But then they started coming and realized that we love the nursery and just want to keep it as great as it always has been. Since then, I’ve gotten nothing but positive input, which is the ultimate achievement to me.”
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The Park City Chamber/Bureau on Tuesday honored Bob Wheaton, the longtime leader of Deer Valley Resort, with its annual Myles Rademan Spirit of Hospitality Award. Wheaton joins a long list of prominent Park City figures who have won the award.