Nursery reaches end of an era

Metzler's to close in June

12 single-family houses planned for 6.8-acre site


December 24, 2003|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Shoppers will have fewer options in Columbia next holiday season for purchasing poinsettias, Christmas trees, ornaments and other decorations -- Metzler's Garden Center & Florist in Hickory Ridge village has announced it will close in June.

Owners John and Dotty Metzler said they are working with developer Williamsburg Group LLC to sell the Columbia branch of the family-owned garden center, ending an era for the nearly 40-year-old community institution that pre-dates Columbia.

The developer has submitted plans to the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning to build 12 single-family houses. If the proposal is approved, construction will begin summer 2005 on the 6.8-acre property, John Metzler said.

But customers won't lose the nursery altogether, Dotty Metzler said. Patrons can purchase perennials, annuals and gardening supplies at the Metzler's location in Eldersburg.

"It's just that we want to downsize and spend more time with our children and grandchildren," Dotty Metzler said. "We're going to slow down, go back to our roots."

The couple plan to move to the Finksburg area to live near their two children, who also work for the company. Their daughter, Katrina Metzler Bellofatto, owns a shop, Bellofatto's Flowers, at the Metzler's site in Eldersburg, and their son, Hans, is Metzler's chief financial officer.

The move will allow the Metzlers to live in an area that Dotty Metzler said is similar to the Martinsburg, Pa., landscapes where they grew up -- and similar to what it was like when the business opened in 1964, she said.

"Columbia's a city now," she said.

At first, Metzler's was based in their home on Jerrys Drive. They started out mowing lawns, she said.

They moved to their current location in 1971, later expanding with a covered greenhouse. The Eldersburg store opened in 1998.

Today, Metzler's offers decorative and gift items in addition to live plants and holiday decorations, each carefully displayed -- a tiny Christmas tree poking out of an old mailbox or an arrangement of evergreens on an antique window frame, for example. Children also enjoyed community events such as festivals held every spring and fall, as well as Dotty Metzler's pet rabbits, goats and a parrot.

"We used to park one adult out there" with the children and animals so the other could shop, said Karen Jacobs of Kings Contrivance.

Kelly Coe of Wilde Lake said she was upset by the news that Metzler's will close next summer. "I like the fact that it's owned by a family," she said. "They always have a good understanding about what I'm looking for."

Patti Kane of Kings Contrivance said Metzler's was part of her holiday tradition.

"Every Christmas my girls get an ornament from here," she said. "It's a family outing."

Harper's Choice resident Doris Brashears said she has shopped at Metzler's for more than 30 years because of the quality of the products. Yesterday, she bought four varieties of rose-colored poinsettias.

"The ones that we get here are the ones you can get to bloom again the next year," Brashears said.

Like Kane, Brashears says she will "have to take a ride up" to Eldersburg to check out the other location.

If approved, construction on the Metzler's site will be one of many new and planned developments for Hickory Ridge. Requests to rezone about 75 acres have been submitted along Cedar Lane, including several near the village center and Freetown Road. As an outparcel of Columbia, the Metzler's site is not subject to the town's zoning or other restrictions.

For some residents, the number of requests for rezoning is daunting.

"Sitting there and reading it when it's in black and white, the list ... looks like it's a mile long," said Linda Hitzelberger, chairwoman of the Hickory Ridge Village Board.

She said, however, that she supports the plan for single-family houses at the Metzler's site. "We think that will fit into our landscape," Hitzelberger said.

But she is not happy that Metzler's is leaving.

"We'll be sad to see Metzler's go because it's just kind of an integral part of our neighborhood," she said.

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