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Still Growing: Hollandia Nurseries Celebrates 60th Anniversary



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Family-owned garden center Hollandia Nurseries, located at 103 Old Hawleyville Road in Bethel, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

The sprawling nursery and farm has over 20 acres lined with thousands of plants, ranging from annuals and perennials to vegetables and herbs to trees and shrubs. Paired with various gardening supplies, vast display gardens, and a staff ready to help at a moment’s notice, Hollandia Nurseries has grown exponentially over the last six decades.

The one way the business has stayed the same, according to Hollandia Nurseries owner Eugene Reelick, is its commitment to the community.

“It’s definitely a strong part of it,” Eugene said. “Without the community, we wouldn’t be here, nor would a lot of other businesses or garden centers still be in business today. It’s because of the people. And when you have a community like what we have surrounding us, who embraces you for who you are and what you have to offer, it’s really terrific.”

Growing the business has been a generational endeavor. Founded in 1964 by Eugene’s parents Hans and Sally Reelick, Hollandia Nurseries originally opened in a small two-car garage in downtown Bethel.

According to Hans, he and Sally had no money when they first opened. This made it incredibly difficult to buy the equipment and vehicles needed to grow plants. Banks would also not lend them any money since they had no assets or background in what they always wanted to do.

They did not even own the small garage space Hollandia Nurseries opened in, as they were renting it.

“We started from very little,” Hans said. “And we could afford very little, but we stuck with it.”

Sally said that they had to rent and take advantage of whatever tools they had available to them in order to accomplish what they set out to do.

Despite their rough start, around a year and a half after opening in downtown Bethel, Hans and Sally had the opportunity to move locations. Instead of being next to Burger House Restaurant in Bethel Center, they could move over to Haven Farm on Old Hawleyville Road.

This was thanks to Hans and Sally meeting a man named Lester Havens, who owned the location. He let the pair stay there until they eventually bought it for themselves. Havens let them buy it on their terms, Hans said, and that they would pay Havens every month.

“We knew what we wanted to do, and so did he,” Sally said. “So it was our work, our background, our energy and determination that built Hollandia to what it is today.”

Hans and Sally also rented a retail location on Stony Hill Road, although several years later it was consolidated into the Old Hawleyville Road location.

Despite the hardship the business faced in its early years, Hollandia Nurseries continued to grow. News of the retail garden center spread by word of mouth, and gradually they garnered more loyal and supportive customers. According to Hans, they continued to meet incredibly kind people who were willing to support them.

“So here’s Hollandia 60 years later, thanks to the people of Bethel, of Newtown, of everywhere in the surrounding area, because people supported us,” Sally said.

As an owner of Hollandia, Eugene has taken it upon himself to continue his parents’ legacy and expand the business.

“Mom and dad gave all of us kids the opportunity to continue their legacy, to build on their legacy, and to grow their legacy,” Eugene said. “That’s what we want to do with it; to grow their legacy and branch out to new directions. We’re in the gardening industry, that’s just what we do.”

Becoming an owner of Hollandia came with its own set of challenges. When his parents started the business, Eugene said, it was smaller and thus easier to manage. Since the population was not as big, he added, there initially was not that much demand.

As the neighborhood grew and farmland was subdivided for housing complexes, the demand for more plant resources and landscape services grew too. While the nursery has always offered landscaping, for example, Eugene says the landscaping services they offer now are a little larger in scale to match that demand.

Hollandia Gift & Garden

In 2004 the family opened Hollandia Gift & Garden. Located at 95 Stony Hill Road, the gift store focuses on indoor plants and also offers different gardening products, such as gifts and hard goods. Eugene said Hollandia Gift & Garden was the perfect alternative for some of their customers.

He explained that the rough terrain in the nurseries and farm location can make it hard to traverse. Opening a location such as Hollandia Gift & Garden, he said, made it an easier and more convenient shopping experience with its hard surface area.

As the gardening industry has changed, so has the technology at Hollandia Nurseries. Eugene said that implementing new technology, such as an irrigation system that helps automate the watering process for hanging plants, helps make things more efficient and also helps staff focus less on repetitive tasks like watering and instead on other tasks such as customer service and transplanting.

“With new technology, we’ve had better water conservation, better fertilizer distribution," Eugene said. “It’s not cutting labor, it’s reducing the labor to grow plants, which allows us to utilize our labor in other areas of the nursery.”

Hollandia Nurseries General Manager Kathy Krizan said that despite the changes the nursery has undergone over the years, she believes its core identity of providing quality plants, customer service, and plant knowledge has never changed.

“We just want people to succeed,” Krizan said. “When people come in here, we try to educate them on how to take care of their plants so that they are successful. We want them to be successful gardeners. And that’s something that’s never changed throughout Hollandia’s career.”

Looking toward Hollandia’s future, Eugene said he has two boys, Hans Reelick Jr and Peter Reelick, and that “it’s not up to me, it’s up to them.

“As my father would say, it’s not up to me anymore, it’s up to them. So it’s up to them now. And so there’s opportunity there, but who knows,” Eugene said. “What someone does with lemons is only up to them.”

Regarding Hollandia, Hans Jr, who graduated from college this spring, said he believes he has a good foundation he can build upon. Thinking about what they want to do with the future is extremely important, he added, as they go into this technologically based age.

He also believes there are ways to implement technology into the company and reduce labor costs, water wastage, and fertilizer usage. Reducing that usage, he says, means customers would get a cleaner product and save money at the same time while making customer service easier.

“We’ve already been starting to implement [technology], especially in our new greenhouse. But something that I can take to the next level is really important for me because I love technology. I think it’s a great feature. And I think we need to use what we have, but also be able to appreciate the original hard work mindset of going to work, putting in the time and effort, and keeping that human interaction,” Hans Jr said.

This year marks his tenth year working at Hollandia. Hans Jr said potentially taking over the business in the future is exciting and that he will have some big shoes to fill.

“I really do love it. I started here as a young kid learning the ropes, and now I kind of run a little bit of everything. And it’s incredible,” Hans Jr said. “I mean, my dad had a great foundation, and now I have a bigger, better foundation. So I have some big shoes to fill, but a lot of the great staff and customers helped build the company to where it is today. Hopefully we can grow it and make it the best that it can be.”

Hollandia Nurseries & Farm, located at 103 Old Hawleyville Road, Bethel, is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm, while Hollandia Gift & Garden, located at 95 Stony Hill Road, Bethel, is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

For more information about Hollandia, visit their website at ctgrown.com or call Hollandia Nurseries & Farm at 203-743-0267 or Hollandia Gift & Garden at 203-792-0268.


Reporter Jenna Visca can be reached at jenna@thebee.com.

Hans Reelick Jr (left), Hans Reelick Sr, Eugene Reelick, Sally Reelick, Peter Reelick, and their family dog Magnolia are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their family-owned garden center business, Hollandia Nurseries. Located in Bethel, the nursery has gained a reputation of being home to thousands of plants, display gardens, and annual community events. —Bee Photos, Visca
A wide variety of plants growing outside at Hollandia Nurseries & Farm.
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