BANKS, Ore. — For years, Tory Schwope has envisioned a West Coast presence for DCA Outdoor, a family of brands that connect the agricultural, nursery stock production, landscape distribution, agritourism and transportation industries, which includes independent garden center Colonial Gardens. He also wanted to expand into the bare root tree market.
When the DCA Outdoor founder and CEO recently visited Fishback Nursery in Banks, Oregon, Schwope struck up a conversation with Keith Fishback, who 40 years ago founded the nursery with his brother Dan.
Schwope had purchased products from Fishback and established a relationship that resulted in his participating in a tour of the 500-acre nursery. Then, a friendly chat eventually led to DCA Outdoor acquiring Fishback Nursery, a deal which expands DCA Outdoor into the commercial fruit tree market while allowing a long-established business to continue to thrive.
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Colonial Gardens, based in Blue Springs, Mo., and one of the brands under DCA Outdoor, is reinventing the garden center model by combining plant retail, local food and agritourism, with a focus on experience, education and entertainment.
Fishback Nursery will be renamed to Schwope Brothers Tree Farms.
“It’s an exceptionally well-run company,” Schwope said. “This is not a reinvent, tear-it-down, build-it-back-up operation. We plan to introduce new technologies and efficiencies, and we're looking for top-tier production managers to work with the original owners and their established teams.”
Keith and Dan Fishback will remain on to assure a smooth transition at the business they opened in 1978.
“Tory talked about his desire to one day own an Oregon nursery and I talked about a succession plan,” Keith Fishback said, recalling Schwope’s initial visit. “When you don’t have family that wants to take over your business, you look for a succession plan that keeps product flowing for your customers. We’ve spent the last 40 years developing relationships and we want to keep those relationships going.”
“Tory is very focused on growing a quality product, developing markets and filling the market with trees that people want,” Keith Fishback added. “I think we’re like-minded. He’s energetic and not afraid to work.”
The acquisition means a team of employees, some with more than 30 years of experience at the nursery, will continue working at the Banks operation. Additional positions at the upper management level such as production managers will be added, Schwope said.
The acquisition of Fishback Nursery isn’t the only significant development for DCA Outdoor. The company reached an agreement to purchase Valley Hill Nurseries in Springfield, Kentucky. Valley Hill, led by Todd Ryan, opened in 1972 as a producer of caliper shade trees balled in burlap and continues to do so today on 350 acres.
“These are two great operations, each with a long, storied history,” Schwope said of the Fishback and Valley Hill sites. “Both have in common a retiring ownership, which provides an opportunity for forward-thinking production leaders to join our team. We’re going to continue to build on what they started 40 years ago.”