The McDonald Story
by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia
Businesses come and go but some stay and grow to be cornerstones of life in a community. One of those cornerstones is McDonald Garden Center, now celebrating its 70th anniversary of helping neighbors plan, plant and pamper beautiful yards and gardens throughout southeastern Virginia. McDonald began as a partnership between two brothers in 1945 in Hampton, Va. The garden center on Pembroke Avenue sat on property that was somewhat rural with fields and few houses around it. Life in Hampton meant customers wanted seeds for vegetable gardens and flowers for pretty beds.
In the 1950s, new buildings and plant displays turned the full-service garden center into a beehive of activity for the growing needs of Peninsula gardeners looking for shade trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials. In 1973, Eddie Anderson and wife Sara purchased the garden center, and used their love for gardening and passion for superior customer service to guide the garden center into the fruitful future it’s enjoyed for seven decades. As Hampton has grown up around the garden center, the nursery continues to help residents learn about gardening and buy picture-perfect plants.
When McDonald opened its second location in the fall of 1980, it took what was originally a horse stable and riding academy on Independence Boulevard and transformed it into a gardening paradise with greenhouse, koi pond and garden-like vignettes of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables and tropicals. That same focus to quality and unique shopping experience expanded to Chesapeake in March 1992 with the opening of McDonald Garden Center on Portsmouth Boulevard, conveniently located near I-664. Realizing the value and convenience for customers to shop right in their own communities, McDonald designed and unveiled the first of its many seasonal Garden Markets in Poquoson in spring 2009. Each market offers a vast array of plants as well as garden accessories and products. Now, there are more than a dozen seasonal locations that delight and serve garden enthusiasts from Williamsburg to Virginia Beach.
Today, high quality landscape design and installation services, festive Christmas open houses, locally grown plant material, extensive inventory of unique Japanese maples and fun, educational workshops are just some of the ongoing characteristics that distinguish McDonald Garden Center from its peers. Its annual Outdoor Show in March sets the trends and standards for living the good life indoors and outdoors.
Owner Eddie Anderson is very much involved in the family business but day-to-day operations are now overseen by his son, Mark Anderson. The Andersons still live in Hampton where Eddie continues his love for figs, which he bred and developed as a special line of edible treats for his gardening customers.
As in the beginning and 70 years later, McDonald Garden Center remains a family business with a loving and strong link to helping make Hampton Roads Virginia one of the prettiest gardening spots in America.