80 years celebrated by DiGregory’s

A FAMILY BUSINESS — Elizabeth DiGregory, left, stands next to her father, Lou DiGregory, and her aunt, Mara DiGregory, in the DiGregory’s Greenhouse and Garden Center on Bullock Avenue in Steubenville. Elizabeth is the fourth generation to work at the business and is the retail manager of the store. -- Dave Gossett

STEUBENVILLE — Louis F. DiGregory had a knack for growing things, so he decided to start a part-time seasonal nursery on a lot he purchased on Bullock Avenue.

“He wanted to supplement his income. He was working at Weirton Steel in the 1930s and built a greenhouse on a small piece property he purchased and grew geraniums and several vegetable plants in the spring. My grandfather always had a knack for growing things and he enjoyed it. At the time he started the business my dad (Jim) was about 10 years old and his job was to take care of the greenhouse when my grandfather was working in the mill,” related third generation owner Lou DiGregory.

The business has grown from its original one lot greenhouse during the past 80 years with each generation adding to the greenhouses and nursery.

“My grandfather ran the business until 1965 when my dad bought it. But my grandfather continued coming to the greenhouses and nursery every day until his health started failing. It was tough on my grandfather when my dad was in the military during World War II. During those years it was my grandfather and grandmother Christine,” continued Lou DiGregory.

“When my dad came home from the war he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He took advantage of the G.I. bill and went to Michigan State to study floraculture. When he came home, the business wasn’t big enough for a young man starting out with a family, so my dad got a job at Diekman’s Nursery in Wintersville until 1965, when he came back to the family business,” said Lou DiGregory.

“My grandfather had continued to buy lots on Bullock Avenue as they became available and eventually had five greenhouses. When my dad took over he added two more greenhouses and a garden center,” Lou DiGregory pointed out.

“My dad retired in the 1990s. But he never really retired. He was here every day. By that time he had expanded the business from just a springtime operation to a year-round business that included growing poinsettias for Christmas to Easter lilies and hardy mums for the fall. When he added the garden center we were growing and selling shrubs and trees and started doing landscaping,” cited Lou DiGregory.

“I started coming to the store when I was in kindergarten because my mom was also working here and it was easier to watch me. This was my playground, and as I got older there was always something for me to do here. When you grow up in this business you are always learning something new. When I graduated from Catholic Central I decided to go to Ohio State University, where I studied landscape design and construction as well as horticulture,” he recounted.

“My sister Mara still works here as well as my daughter Elizabeth who graduated from Wheeling Jesuit University with a degree in business and marketing. She is now the retail manager. And my daughter Rachel works as a preschool teacher at John King Mussio Elementary School and works on the landscaping crew during the summer,” commented Lou DiGregory.

“Elizabeth is in charge of our advertising and social media. And we have moved into patio and outdoor design and installation. But after 80 years we face even more challenges. The business has seen some drastic changes. People’s ideas and perceptions are changing. We now live in a hurry-up world and people are time starved. The average person doesn’t do as much gardening as they used to. But gardening is a very therapeutic thing to do. To be out working in a garden can actually relax you,” he noted.

According to Elizabeth DiGregory, her exposure to the business came when she was about 10 years old.

“I started out doing some odd jobs here and liked it a lot. Now I am preparing to take the business into the new age of social media. Everyone from the big box stores to the small stores now sells flowers and maybe a few vegetables. But I still believe we offer the best plants available in the area. And everything you need to now about landscaping and outdoor design is available here. We bring quality to our business and I am proud to be the fourth generation to be part of DiGregory’s Greenhouse and Garden Center,” said Elizabeth DiGregory.

She has set up an 80th anniversary display in the store’s front window.

“I love the photo of my great-grandparents. I didn’t know my great-grandfather, but I remember my Nana Christine. To have that connection is so neat,” Elizabeth DiGregory said.

“But I can tell you our customers are the cream of the crop and very loyal. I have a gentleman who comes to our store from Columbus three or four times a year because he likes what we have available and he says he feels comfortable with us. We still run a seven-day-a-week business where we often work 10 to 12 hours a day. And I couldn’t do this without the support of my wife. She is very understanding and knows what is involved with the business,” Lou DiGregory stated.