Tara Bone, contributing writer
Tawna and Barry Fonnesbeck take the phrase “bloom where you’re planted” to a new level. Since opening Fonnesbeck Greenhouse in Mendon 25 years ago, they have been growing their family right alongside their plants.
Tawna and Barry’s story began 50 years ago. They saw each other for the first time at a Sky View basketball game; she was from Mendon and he was from Logan. They married and Barry served in the Navy for four years before they built their home in Mendon so he could have cows, and eventually a greenhouse.
Tawna said she had no interest in plants for the first years they were married, but that all changed when his hobby greenhouse turned into something more.
“He built a little greenhouse to play in, then we started selling vegetable plants, then we went a little crazy and decided to turn it into a business,” Tawna said. “I went back to college at 40 and did a piano major and a minor in ornamental horticulture to help with the greenhouse. It was very contagious from there.”
Tawna said Barry has a green thumb that can grow anything and a landscape vision in his head. She calls it “a gift.” Barry admits he has loved working with plants since he was a “little guy growing up in Logan.”
The nursery has been a place for their five children, and now their 14 grandchildren to grow their own work ethic and love for plants. Today all five of their children work either in agriculture or landscape architecture. And it’s typical to see their grandchildren working at the nursery.
The Fonnesbeck Nursery has evolved into a retail garden center that does special order items and sells everything from rakes and fertilizers, to vegetable plants, perennials, trees and shrubs. Over the years, they have also taught classes for Utah State and given greenhouse tours to university students. The Fonnesbecks try to carry unique plants because as Tawna points out, “not everybody wants the same thing in their yard.”
A highlight of their work is traveling to Oregon where Barry says “they get some of the really cool stuff.” But he emphasizes that it’s important to them that they only sell things they know grow in Cache Valley.
Tawna is quick to add that Barry builds beautiful hanging baskets, and return customers come each season with their pots for him to plant. Customers come from around Utah, Idaho, Montana and even California. The Fonnesbecks say they are grateful to loyal customers and work to develop trust with them.
”We try to have good service and good plants,” Barry said. “Telling people the truth – that’s huge. That’s why people come back.”
Joan Kleinke is a customer from Logan who’s been coming back for years. She says she initially came to Fonnesbeck Greenhouse because they were the only nursery in Cache Valley that carried a particular plant. Now she keeps coming back because of the honesty and help she receives.
“I get more than other places here; I value their honesty and they give me tips,” Joan said. “Barry is good to sit down and help me. It’s worth it to me to come out here, they carry a nice product and they tell you how to care for it.”
The future of Fonnesbeck Nursery looks bright. Tawna and Barry’s daughter, Blaire, wants to keep the greenhouse going. All of the Fonnesbeck children like to help, just not full-time. Blaire said she hopes her kids, the next generation, will work here. With a laugh, Blaire adds that her almost six-year-old daughter “thinks she should take over the place.”
The biggest challenge Tawna and Barry face is they say they are getting older and it’s getting harder. But they keep going every day for their customers and to keep Cache Valley beautiful.
“When you get older you decide you either sit in the house and die, or you come out and do this,” Barry said. “And it’s fun work, it’s work, but the people are fun – the families are fun.”