Nursery prepares for spring following Ivan#039;s destruction

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Surviving a hurricane is one thing.

Rebuilding is another and it doesn’t occur overnight.

That is the lesson many have learned in the eight months since Hurricane Ivan roared through the area leaving devastation in his wake.

One of the hardest hit businesses in the area was B & B Nursery on U.S. Highway 31, just south of Greenville.

Owners Billy and Mary Croley had several greenhouses built on Mary’s ancestral property.

When they shut down on the Wednesday before the storm hit, they knew they were likely going to have some damage, but not almost a total loss. When they could finally survey the damage the following day they found the worst-case scenario.

&uot;We lost two houses completely,&uot; Mary Croley said.

&uot;We had a total of 13 houses and we had tops left only on three.

All of our buildings had some type of damage.&uot;

She described finding greenhouses where the trusses were blown down and trees were down everywhere including on her own home.

&uot;We had one large pine tree fall over and take out nearly all of our chrysanthemums, trees and shrubs,&uot; she said.

&uot;We also had a tree take out the electric pump we used for irrigating the houses.&uot;

She also described how the nursery’s pots were blown all over the area, those that didn’t have trees on top of them.

In the days following the storm, she said many family members and friends came to the small business’ aid, working to get some of the buildings back together.

&uot;We couldn’t have done it without help from our family,&uot; she said.

&uot;They were here working to get the retail building open again, pulling plants from underneath trees and salvaging what we could.&uot;

She said from the day the storm passed through, it took until Thanksgiving to get some semblance of order back in place.

&uot;We finally got the houses in order enough on Thanksgiving to turn on the heat for the first time,&uot; she said.

&uot;We were lucky we didn’t have a hard freeze until after then.&uot;

Croley said the worst part of the ordeal was the fact they had dropped their insurance on the greenhouses.

&uot;We had paid so much for our insurance because it takes extra to insure perishable plants,&uot; she said.

&uot;We knew we would lose an occasional top but it was always cheaper just to replace it rather than pay the increasing premiums.

And there is so much red tape involved in insuring plants.&uot;

She said a friend of the family called and said she was sending a check to help out and Croley said she and Billy were grateful.

Also, they quickly learned that FEMA offered no aid because they were a small business.

But she quickly learned that Sam Cooper with BanCorp South in Fort Deposit was also a good friend.

&uot;Mr. Sam called to check on us when he could and said if there was anything they could do to help us, they were ready,&uot; she said.

&uot;We would have been hurting if it hadn’t been for Mr. Sam.&uot;

Another divine aid for the Croleys was the equipment they had on hand already, including metal trusses and heaters. She said when Champion’s Nursery went out of business in 2004; her husband bought the equipment and houses.

&uot;Because he did that, we had that equipment sitting here when the storm hit,&uot; she said.

&uot;So that helped us out a great deal.&uot;

The nursery has many various potted plants, hanging plants and flowers and a whole variety of shrubberies.

Croley said with a few exceptions, everything on the place is grown from seeds at their location.

So when the storm hit, many of the plants now ready for sell, were just seedlings.

But because of the family’s hard work, a beautiful display of spring flowers and plants awaits customers.

Billy and Mary are there each day to help out, but you can also find Abby Gardner Ballew pitching in.

Croley said Ballew is currently home from college and is helping out until she begins graduate school.

The nursery keeps everyone busy with a 7:30 a.m. opening time six days a week.

They do close a little early on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. and are closed on Sunday.