Doug and Jan Hull opened a “little roadside produce stand” on St. Andrews Road in 1978.
The business is still there. But during the past 29 years, Seven Oaks Plant Shop has evolved into one of the area’s most well-known garden centers.
And it was quite by accident.
“There was a gravel parking lot with peaches still in the basket and a concrete floor,” recalls Renee McGrady, the Hulls’ daughter who runs the plant shop with her husband, Mark.
One day, Jan Hull decorated the place with plants.
“The customers started asking to buy them, so they started selling plants,” Renee McGrady says.
Today, not only do they sell plants, but they grow them as well.
With the McGradys minding the store, Doug Hull focuses his efforts on the plants. Hull grows about 20 percent of what is sold at Seven Oaks Plant Shop.
“And we try to use local growers,” Mark McGrady says.
Customers enjoy strolling through the garden center as much as they like filling up their carts with vibrant flowers of all shapes and sizes.
“Everything is always fresh,” says Christine Baldwin, an Irmo customer. “I’ve bought plants at other stores, but they didn’t do nearly as well. I know if I get one here, it’s going to survive.”
Workers constantly water, snip and prune diligently to keep the plants healthy.
But they’re always willing to put down their tools and help a customer.
“They’re very nice people,” says Mae Meetze, a longtime customer from Irmo.
“They know what they’re doing,” says Ginger Diegel, another longtime Irmo customer. “I don’t have a green thumb .æ.æ. but I always know I can come here and ask advice .æ.æ. and whatever I buy here grows well.”
The shop has always been a family business. Renee McGrady and her sister used to shell beans and sweep floors as children. When they got older, they worked there after school and during holidays.
The produce stand was called Seven Oaks Farm Fresh Market when it opened, and kept that name until the late 1980s.
Before the Hulls erected a permanent sign for the business, they had a portable one that sat out front with a Christian saying or Bible verse. The sign gave the shop nicknames such as the “Jesus Market,” or the “Jesus is Lord Plant Shop.”
Even though that sign is gone, people still remember and use the nicknames.
It’s quite simply a landmark.
Josh Eleazer has worked at Seven Oaks for eight years and chats with customers like old friends.
“I’ll go anywhere in the Harbison and Lexington area and I’ll see someone I know from here,” Eleazer says. “I was at Williams-Brice Stadium with 85,000 people and saw four people in my section I knew from the store.”