Except that this spring, for the first time in 68 years, all is quiet at Figueiredo’s Greenhouses at 698 Pine Hill Road, Westport. The greenhouses are empty.
Owners Terry and Theresa-Marie Pimental decided recently that the time has come to retire, to shut down the flower and vegetable business started in 1946 by her parents, the late Joseph and Irene Figueiredo.
It’s a hard rhythm to break for them and for long-time employee and friend Jane Bernardo, Ms. Pimental said last week.
“I keep getting the feeling that there are things that need fixing, that plants need watering, that I’m getting behind on the books, there are things I should be doing,” she said.
But they are both in their mid-sixties now, “and we decided that it’s time.”
This will be a very different spring for us, she said. They will miss the sprouts, the greenhouses bursting with color and all the challenges that come with growing. “Most of all … the fantastic customers who visited every year.”
At the same time, “It’s really nice to live life like normal people do,” not spend all day, seven days a week trying to keep up with the greenhouse demands, then tend to the books long into the evening.
“We’re looking forward to having time to plant a garden of our own.”
They are touched too by the kind words from many long-time customers who’ve said how much they’ll miss the place
“They ask, ‘Where are we going to find all those plants that you always had?'” Ms. Pimental said.
She replies that there are other good places in the area, though, “They are right in a way — not so many places grow all the variety that we kept” — 40 types of tomatoes, 30 peppers, lots of cucumbers and the “great old heritage plants that you don’t find so much any more.
“We grew 99 percent of what we sold, either from seed or cuttings” — flowering plants and vegetable seedlings for spring and summer gardens, mums for the fall and poinsettias at Christmas (greenhouse heating costs finally forced an end to poinsettia growing).
“It’s a lot of work but a lot of satisfaction,” she said.
Pushed out by the highway
Figueiredo’s might never have put down roots in Westport had not Route 195 come along.
Returning from World War II, Joseph Figueiredo and his new bride Irene (Rogers) built the first greenhouse in 1946 at the family homestead in New Bedford on land where his father had grown field pansies.
The business flourished, but in 1964 they learned that Route 195 would be coming straight through the property.
“Giving up was not in Joe’s vocabulary and he really believed that God worked in strange ways so he began searching for a new location,” the family wrote on their website. “His prayers were answered when he went to buy geraniums in Westport.”
The grower, Victorino Silva, said he was thinking of selling his Pine Hill Road greenhouse business and Mr. Figueiredo didn’t hesitate.
“It was the perfect location,” for the family business, Ms. Pimental said. Five-plus acres looking toward the Westport River, greenhouses already in place and, they would learn, “wonderful neighbors.”
And like her father, Mr. Silva was a perfectionist with his planting — wouldn’t let anyone inside those greenhouses who didn’t belong there.
Figueirdo’s flourished at its new home, Ms. Pimental said, but the years have brought challenges.
Weather always — a 1970s snowstorm flattened a greenhouse, and rainstorms on on spring weekends. “You lose a weekend then, you just can’t make it up. It’s gone. It doesn’t help when the weather people start on Monday saying it’s going to rain all weekend … and often it doesn’t.”
Competition has grown, much of it from big box stores that import seedlings by the million.
“But we had loyal customers who kept coming because they knew they could find things here that those stores just don’t have.”
“And people just seem to be busier these days, don’t have so much time to plan a garden — buy a few plants when they have a moment but they spend so much time on the computer instead of getting outdoors and doing things.”
The high points?
“Lots of them but best of all was raising four sons right in the greenhouse with us, from when they were little — five days old.
“They thrived playing and working along side their Bumpa Joe, Nana and Mom and Dad. For this generation it was a place to play and learn a work ethic … Wonderful memories.”