From One Family To Another: Wardell’s Sells To Black Diamond

John Sullivan, manager of the Black Diamond Garden Center on Dutch Road in Waterville, joins Tom Wardell, who operated Wardell’s Garden Center for 37 years. He is now retired. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — After 37 years, the garden center at 7713 Dutch Rd. has changed hands from one family-owned business to another.

“It’s time for me to relax and not worry about anything but my second cup of coffee,” said Tom Wardell, who sold Wardell’s Garden Center to Black Diamond Garden Center.

Donning his trademark hat and a Wardell’s T-shirt, Wardell stopped in the center last weekend for a last look before moving to Florida. Working seven days a week and serving on the Waterville Township Zoning Commission and the Maumee Valley Growers board of directors made for a hectic schedule, and it’s time for retirement, Wardell said. He’s also confident that Black Diamond will do well carrying on his tradition.

Black Diamond is a family-owned business founded in 1953 by Dan and Jerry Sullivan on Tremainsville Road in Toledo. Their father, B.W. Sullivan, managed a coal company named Black Diamond, delivering coal to homes until after World War II, when natural gas became more common. With help from their dad – and the company name – Dan and Jerry decided to get into the greenhouse business.

“The old family joke is that they’d either get into flowers or funeral homes, so that either way, something’s going into the ground,” chuckled Zachary Edwards, now CEO of the 70-year-old family business.

As the Toledo location thrived, the family added a residential lawn service in the 1970s and a second garden center on Eckel Junction Road in Perrysburg in 2006. The lawn service, which provides a five-step lawn fertilizer program and grub control, has grown to encompass customers in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan, and customers often recognize the Black Diamond trucks.

“We didn’t necessarily think of expanding after opening the Perrysburg location, but this was a very unique opportunity,” said Edwards, who met Tom as a board member of Maumee Valley Growers.

Now a Monclova resident, Edwards lived in Waterville for 13 years and drove by Wardell’s every day, so he is familiar with the center’s popularity as well as the potential in a growing school district where he has children in the middle school and junior high school.

“I’m excited to see where things will go,” said Edwards, who plans to maintain what Wardell founded but add some other touches.

Before departing, Wardell helped plant three acres of pumpkins that are looking good after a few rounds of rain, Edwards said. Black Diamond will host a you-pick pumpkin patch and have other fall decor, such as hay bales and mums.

“We grow over 30 varieties of mums in reds, pinks and oranges. They add color when the annuals start to not look so good in August. It’s the cooler nights that get mums to start opening up,” he said.

Next summer, Black Diamond may add a you-cut flower garden.

“Zinnias are big in July and sunflowers in August,” Edwards noted. “It’s a nice bridge between spring and fall.”

In November and December, the Christmas shop will be open, featuring green goods including swags, wreaths, garlands and grave blankets along with customized decorating of those items.

The slowest month is January, but house plants are hot right now – as Edwards has seen in the Perrysburg location.

“We’ve taken a major dive into houseplants,” he said. “People in January and February need a little sunshine and warmth. This is a nice growing trend we’re seeing, and it perfectly pairs with the spring business.”

Of course, spring is the busiest time of the year, and Black Diamond staff will be busy in the greenhouses starting in February. 

“Tom did a good job of growing his own flowers for flats and baskets. That’s our niche as well,” Edwards said, noting that while it might look slow at the front of the shop, plenty will be going on in the back in preparation for spring.

“In the spring, we grow 100 different types of flowers in different sizes. We’ll fill up the greenhouse and by the end of May, it will be pretty much empty,” Edwards said. 

Throughout the year, customers can come in for gardening accessories and tools, grass seed and birdseed by the pound, as well as decorative items. 

All of the staff has remained through the transition, and John Sullivan – Edward’s cousin and manager of the Perrysburg location – is taking over as manager of the Dutch Road garden center.

For more information, visit www.blackdiamondgrows.com or call (419) 878-4195.

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