Nursery Business to Make its Debut

By Amy Ash Nixon - The Hartford Courant: Sunday, May 2, 1993

With young plants to water, tiny seedlings to transplant into bigger pots and worries about a dying 4-day-old goat, 16-year-old Matt Eddinger had a lot on his mind on a recent visit to his greenhouse. 

Matt, a hard-working farmer of few words, calls the greenhouse his "dream come true."

A student in Middletown High School's vocational agriculture department, Matt took a ferry to Long Island most weekends last spring to learn firsthand about greenhouse operations from his aunt, who runs a nursery there.

After his 30-by-72-foot greenhouse was built on the family's Chamberlain Road farm, Matt opened his business, called "Buds and Blossoms," the weekend before Mother's Day.

Matt paid for the greenhouse, and for some of this year's startup costs, from the sale of livestock he raises at the farm.  He borrowed some money from his mother and will repay her as soon as his cash drawer begins to fill.

The greenhouse will open Saturday, and will be open weekends and after school, when the sign is hung out front.

These are long days for Matt.  His mother, Bobbi Eddinger, wakes him at about 6 a.m. and he sets off to work in the greenhouse before going to school.

"It's long and it's tiring," Matt said of his days, walking through the greenhouse and pointing out the geraniums, impatiens and other seedlings in their early April stages one afternoon.

While Matt is drawn to horticulture's charm, he's also a young entrepreneur with his eye on the bottom line. "I like thinking of earning all that money!" he said, with a grin.

The prices at Buds and Blossoms are slightly lower than other greenhouses at what Matt's mother, Bobbi, calls "entry-level pricing."  She's trying to talk him into specializing in some unusual varieties of flowers to develop his own niche in the market.

As Bobbi Eddinger points out, everyone's in the pansy and petunia business, but Swan River daisies?  He could break new ground with those, says the woman who is also the business manager.  Matt glared.  They hadn't talked about this strategy yet.

Matt also gets advice from "the uncles," his three retired great uncles, all farmers, who live across the street and come over daily to check up on him.

"We come over when we need something," said Harry Marks, the eldest of the three brothers.  They wouldn't give their ages, but said that collectively they provide Matt with "300 years of advice."

Matt is also making inroads beyond the farm to sell plants.

Last year, he made one trip to the Hartford farmers market, where he made his first plant sale about 4 a.m., he said.  Now that he has his driver's license, he plans to go every week.

Most of last year's business came word-of-mouth.  Matt's younger brothers, Luke, 14, Josh, 13, Sam, 11, and Zach, 9, all helped pass out fliers, and will do so again this year.  Matt's good friend Charlie Pent, 16, also helps out.

Matt is working long hours to fill his greenhouse this year, and looks back fondly on last year's success, hoping it will repeat.

"They came in swarms," Matt said, recalling his opening day for business last May.  "I felt pretty good."