“We love people. We love plants.
”David Lewis is the 4th generation to own and operate Sargent’s Nursery. We sat down with David recently, just as the greenhouses were giving us the first signs of spring.“We have been at this location since 1928. That’s when the business was incorporated by my Great Grandfather Forrest H Sargent. Back in those days, this was Burnside Township. It wasn’t even part of the City of Red Wing. The original Sargent’s farmstead was much bigger than the eight acres it consists of today.
David’s Great Grandfather moved to Red Wing from Rochester to start his business. He was a horseman by trade and worked for the Mayo brothers in Rochester. “His business was a farm that consisted of a small orchard where you could pick your own fruits, strawberries, raspberries, and various other types of fruits. He had a roadside stand on Highway 61 where North Service Drive is currently. It was a two-lane dirt highway. And at that time, there were literally just farmsteads out here.”
David’s Grandfather, Max Sargent, made the business what it is today. “Everything that you see when you come here is really his vision.” The business has grown immensely over the years and now employs up to 80, full and part-time people during peak season. Right now, the greenhouses are teeming with people busy transplanting and moving plants from the greenhouse to greenhouse.”The team is also working on Red Wing’s signature hanging flower baskets. “My dad actually helped design the very first basket. Communities all over the country call us ‘how do you pull off such a beautiful flower campaign like that?’ So many places try and do okay or fail. Noontime Kiwanis is really the engine that keeps that going with funds. We’re lucky to be a part of designing and growing the baskets you see downtown. Countless visitors stop at Sargent’s just to inquire about the flower baskets. We sold one to a lady that brought it back to Florida one year.” Sargent’s works closely with the dedicated City of Red Wing Public Works staff. They help plan, install, and care for the baskets each year.
Referring to their customers, David states, “We’re so fortunate to be in a business that when people come in our front door, they want to be here. They love the things that we provide. I can’t tell you how many times people come into the greenhouse and say, ‘Oh, I’m so glad to be here.’ It just shows you that there’s really an important connection between plants and people that goes beyond just that beautiful hanging basket.” Referring to the past 2 years David states, “It has really opened up people’s eyes to the fact that it’s important to be home and be safe and to have something that you enjoy doing…to have an outlet. We needed something to get our hands-on and dig in the dirt. The products we sell and the services we provide give them hope and joy. It gives them beauty within their landscape. And it’s just amazing … the human-plant connection.”
David shares how he began with Sargents. “I went off to school to be a doctor to do my own things. But I had grown up in this business my whole life and loved it. After about a year and a half in pre-med at the University of Minnesota, I said, you know, this is not for me, and why don’t I go into this? I love Red Wing. I love people. And I love plants. Why am I not doing this? This really is my calling. And so I came back. First of all, I finished my degree at the University of Minnesota, with a horticultural nursery management degree. Then came back and started in the Retail Manager position, in 1995. I started taking over ownership in the early 2000s. And now I’m the sole owner. My mom and dad, Bob and Marge Lewis are still involved but are retired. They’re actually helping in the greenhouses today.”
We did some rapid-fire questions with David.
The best day in the greenhouse is when..?…everything’s frozen outside. It’s early Spring. I walk into that greenhouse and I smell the soil and the smell of life. I see the very first flowers of that early spring, the very first pansy that blooms. That’s probably my favorite.”
If you didn’t own Sargent’s Nursery what would you likely be doing instead?“Probably something to do with sports as a commentator or something to do with statistics.”
What is your favorite plant?“The majestic Oak tree.”
David closed our conversation with these thoughts.“My grandpa always said that ‘I can drive down any street and I can see the fruits of our labor, in people’s homes, in people’s front yards, and in our community.’ That’s literally so true, I mean, the value that those things bring to all of our lives. It’s a rarity. It’s for everybody. I’m so proud to be able to work with such a good team of people, who love people and who love plants.”Downtown Main Street thanks Sargent’s Nursery for being a valued Partner. They play such an important role in the beautification of our city. We can’t imagine a Red Wing without Sargent’s Nursery.
Learn more here: https://www.sargentsnursery.com/