by Madison V. Fisler
May 6, 2014. “So far, so good,” said Danielle Stewart with a laugh. Stewart and her husband, Robb did what many people only dream of doing 22 years ago, and some people just plain called them crazy. In 1992, the Stewarts quit their corporate jobs, packed up their 5-month-old daughter and opened up what is now a High Country gardening institution.
For more than two decades, the Stewarts have operated The Mustard Seed Market in Blowing Rock.
“We are a complete destination garden shop,” said Danielle Stewart. “We are a full garden center. We have everything from vegetable starts, organic herbs, native plants, specialty plants, all the way up to trees. We do landscaping, landscape design and even container gardens.”
What looks like a little garden center located on the main drag between Boone and Blowing Rock isn’t so little once you get inside. Upon closer inspection, what looks like a small garden shop actually sprawls in all directions with flowers, trees, decor, gifts, and plants in numbers to boggle the mind.
And those that know about this little secret nestled in the High Country know that it is the place to go for quality.
“We specialize in quality,” Stewart said. “We specialize in amazing plants. Everything we have is well thought out and chosen for our customers. We stand behind everything we have, we work really hard to make sure that we are able to maintain the quality of our products. We hand pick our growers so we have a great relationship with them. Our customers really appreciate our commitment to quality. We will not sell anything that is not ready to go into the ground. We work hard to educate our customers so they know they can trust us, which is wonderful.”
The Stewarts’ dedication to quality has led to droves of customers who seek them out every year.
“Year after year, we have customers that are just like family to us,” Steward said with a smile. “They have watched our kids grow up here, they know our dogs and we know them. We know their children and their grandchildren, we celebrate milestones together. They know us by name and we know them too, and we cherish those relationships.”
But why would two gainfully employed people from Charlotte move up to the High Country to start up a gardening center?
“I was in interior design working for a commercial firm in Charlotte and my husband was in chemical sales,” Stewart said.
“We wanted something we could do together, and we are still married which is the miracle here I think! Our kids grew up here, in fact, there’s one right there!” Stewart smiled, pointing to her young son behind the counter.
“I feel like this has allowed us to become something, I’m not sure what. I really love having our own business. It is the hardest thing we have ever done, we work all the time, but we love it. Sometimes I wonder, it’s really not easy especially with the weather, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
With years in the business, the Stewarts have watched trends come and go and customers wants and needs change.
One of the more unique services that the Market offers is container gardening.
“We love container gardening because there are so many people who don’t have the time or the space to do a large garden. We customize container plants for anyone and everyone and we can do whatever they need. And they can even bring the containers back in the middle of summer to be refreshed. We are even thinking about extending that offering to the fall and holiday seasons to refresh people’s containers around the holidays.”
Stewart mentioned her hopes of extending operations into the holiday season.
“We have been pushed to do a holiday market in our greenhouse and this year might be the year that we do that,” she said. “We will transform our greenhouse for decorating during the holidays. We have been fighting it for a long time. We have great customers who have been really pushing for it and who want our special touch for the winter.”
And it’s not just experienced master gardeners who utilize the market.
“We have a neat young crowd now that just loves our organic herbs and vegetables. They have this great glimmer in their eyes.”
Stewart recounted a story of one of her first experiences with gardening.
“I remember when I had my first Peace Lily and I was scared to death. We just want to educate and teach people and give everyone gardening success. It’s not easy up here so if we can help that’s what we want to do.”
But Stewart added that none of it would be possible without their amazing staff.
“We have a great staff, we just could not do it without our team. Each year the dynamic changes a bit. The kids come and go and they are great, and we have a great selection of ASU students. We have found that you find personalities and you just have to make it work. It’s not an easy job and you have to work hard. We have a lot of people who want to work here, and we welcome whoever wants to try, but it is a hard job. It is definitely fun and you feel rewarded at the end of the day, but we just could not do it without our dedicated. team.”
The Mustard Seed Market employs 15 people including the landscaping crew.
“Every day here is different,” Steward said. “Every minute is different. We have to be flexible, and we are very blessed.”
For those who have not been to The Mustard Seed Market, Steward has this to say.
“We love all gardeners, there are no stupid questions. We love beginning gardeners because we were all there once ourselves. Everybody has to start somewhere and we would love to help be that start. You’ve just got to wander around. A lot of people come in just for the experience of being here and it is a joy on a nice day.”
The Mustard Seed Market is located at 5589 U.S. 321 in Blowing Rock. The market is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and closed on Sundays.
For more information, call 828-295-4585 or visit the website here.