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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : business : business July 09, 2014

5/26/2012 10:00:00 PM
Mortimer marks 25 years, starting in landscaping
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily CourierGary and Sharla Mortimer recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of Mortimer Nursery & Landscape Co. in Prescott.
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Gary and Sharla Mortimer recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of Mortimer Nursery & Landscape Co. in Prescott.
Ken Hedler
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - Nurseryman and farmer Gary Mortimer started small with Mortimer Custom Landscape in 1987 here after moving from the family farm in Creston, Iowa. He opened a shop on Gail Gardner Way.

"It was me to start with, and built up from there," said Mortimer, who focused on residential and commercial work at first.

The family business has blossomed over the years, and observed its 25th anniversary recently. The Mortimer family 10 years ago started the Ash Creek Ranch east of Dewey, where they raise cattle and grow hay and nursery stock.

The Mortimer family, which consists of wife Sharla and four children, also has leased the former Young's Farm in Dewey-Humboldt for two years. They grow sweet corn and pumpkins at the farm, renamed Mortimer Family Farms, and conduct festivals there.

A year ago, the family began leasing land at the Orme Ranch, where they grow sweet corn, watermelons and pumpkins.

Jackie Sweet, who arrived in Prescott from Fullerton, Calif., in 1989, recalls how her late husband, Dean, mentored Gary Mortimer during the early years.

The two men became acquainted while Mortimer brought in a crew to the former Prescott Resort near Antelope Hills to do landscaping work three days a week.

"He is just a very charming sweet boy, a young man," Jackie Sweet said. She said Dean taught Mortimer basic business skills, such as returning phone calls.

Mortimer has matured over the years and expanded the business, she said.

"He has got his hand in so many fires," Sweet said. "He just owns the two businesses, and thank goodness for Sharla. She has taken over the things he can't possibly do, like take care of the books. He can be plowing a field at 10 o'clock at night. He is a workaholic."

Mortimer met the former Sharla Howe, through her father, Ron, in 1996. She said they had no intention at first of dating "or being together," and married nine months later.

Sharla, who is eight years younger than Gary at 35, said she still hears stories from neighbors about "Crazy Gary" digging holes at the property on Willow Creek Road where he opened Mortimer Nursery in 1995.

He said he had about 30 employees when he opened the nursery, a 5-acre site that contains potted plants, landscaping yard rock, a store and greenhouse.

The nursery provided a venue where the public can buy plant material, Gary said.

Gary spends about 80 percent of his time at the farm while Sharla said she spends about 80 percent of her workweek at the nursery.

The couple wore blue jeans and boots on a recent morning at the nursery.

The family business grew with population growth and construction activity in the tri-city area. However, like other businesses, the Mortimers felt the force of the Great Recession.

They peaked at 70 employees before the housing industry collapsed, and dropped to 20 workers as of two years ago, Sharla said. The Mortimers now have 43 employees.

"We are coming back," Sharla said. "We are building in back now. The economy is improving, and we have become more diversified by adding the agricultural element, the cattle and our new farm."

The Mortimers drew praise from the owner of their main competition, Watters Garden Center, a family business that recently marked its 50th anniversary.

"Any business that has been in business for more than 10 years is respectable, but to hit the silver anniversary is a true achievement," Watters owner Ken Lain said. "I really like the fact that they have grown large enough to start farming at the old Young's Farm property."

Sharla said her four children - Kolten, Kayla, Hayden and Ashlee - work after school in the family business.

She said she hopes at least two of them will stay in the family business. After all, Gary and Sharla might be ready to retire in 25 years.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, June 01, 2012
Article comment by: David Wilhelmsen

Congratulations Mortimer family! We have had the privilege of knowing you many years and it's great to see an article recognizing your longstanding contribution to this community.

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012
Article comment by: Sharla Mortimer

Thank you for this wonderful article! It was so nice to meet Ken Hedler & Matt Hinsaw - They both did a fantastic job on this article!

Thank you to Mayer Kuykendall who helped us celebrate by planting a beautiful tree at the Nursery!

We love being in a part of this Quad City Community! Thank you to all our customers & Staff who have made the first 25 years possible! We hope to see you all at the Nursery & the Farm again soon!

Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Article comment by: Chris Berry

I've had the pleasure of working with the Mortimers on a few occasions. They are two of the nicest, hard working and community minded poeple you're likely to meet and I'm proud to be able to call them my friends. Congratulations on this major milestone and I hope you get to be part of our community for for at least 25 more years.

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Article comment by: pablo noname

Congratulations on your success, you have worked hard for it.

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