Steady interest in Smithfield Gardens site

Published 9:58 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A popular Suffolk garden center that closed last year has yet to find new ownership. Potential buyers, however, have been making regular calls.

The landmark Smithfield Gardens location is set on property owned by founders Linda and William Pinkham. Beside the 5,000-square-foot main building is a 2,500-square-foot, single-family home, both set on a total of about seven acres with more than 800 feet of clear visibility for drivers passing by the location on Bridge Road.

“It’s a highly visible property on a highly traveled road,” real estate broker Troy Brinkley said.

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Brinkley has represented the Pinkhams since the property was listed for sale after Smithfield Gardens closed in April 2016. He said he receives calls weekly from people interested in purchasing the property.

Among those that have expressed interest were a church that wished to convert the retail building into a worship center and a restaurant owner that considered the property for a potential wedding venue, Brinkley said. He declined to identify the two parties, neither of which is still pursuing the property.

Another undisclosed party expressed interest and is currently in the preliminary stages of the process, Brinkley said.

“They’re meeting with a land planner and working on their financial sources,” he said.

The Pinkhams started Smithfield Gardens in the early 1970s with rented space near the intersection of Crittenden Road and Bridge Road. The couple purchased the property at 1869 Bridge Road in 1977 and lived in the residence next to the garden center for 13 years before moving into nearby Carrollton, Linda Pinkham said.

Through the decades, they built a reputation among gardeners for personalized landscaping services and an extensive collection of plants for sale.

“They knew we were serious about it, because we were there all the time,” she said. “I think people liked the personal service.”

The couple sold the garden center to their longtime employee Tom Conway and continued working there for another two years before retiring to tend to their own gardens at home. The business had locations in Hampton, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake before the recession took a toll on the industry.

Timberlake Nursery and Greenhouses in Chesapeake closed in October, along with the Chesapeake and Hampton locations of McDonald Garden Center in July.

“It was very sad, but we look at it like everything changes,” Pinkham said. “The recession really affected a lot of nursery people. It was very sad to see it happen, but I guess it wasn’t a huge surprise based on what had happened to the whole industry.”

She and her husband continue to be active gardeners and tend a collection of exotic plants that spans about half of their three-acre property. They are members of the American Hemerocallis Society, and their garden was featured in the AHS National Convention hosted in June by the Tidewater Daylily Society at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott Hotel.

“We’re still doing the fun part of the business,” she said.