Regular commuters on Flagstaff’s east Route 66 may well miss seeing the vibrant colors of Viola’s Flower Garden. In June, Viola’s owners Robyn Walters and Art Escobedo were told the property had been sold and they needed to find a new location. Although this was not the first time the couple had to transplant their business, they are hoping it will be the last.
Named after Walter’s grandmother, Viola, who loved to garden, the home-grown, family-based business took root in 2001 in a small 4,000-square-foot area in the old Kmart (now CalRanch) on 4th Street. By 2003, Viola’s had doubled in size and was spreading out into the parking lot. Three years later, Viola’s moved to the well-known Route 66 location, where it remained for 10 years before moving to its new location on Highway 89A just south of Fort Tuthill.
“We had been keeping our eyes open for a location that would offer us more space and the ability to host more events,” Walters said. “We wanted a country setting with room to expand, and this location is perfect. We were thrilled when we found this place, and all the details eventually came together.”
Walters and Escobedo purchased the old Jackson’s Grill restaurant and land. With two acres and a large building, the new location offers easy access and parking, room for special events such as weddings and parties, land for thousands of plants and a rural atmosphere – something Walters and Escobedo have desired for many years.
“We have always wanted to create a space that looks, feels and smells like a country farm; a place that says family and fun,” Escobedo said. “And we wanted it to be a destination, not just a business to randomly stop at and buy plants. We want to provide a home-like venue people want to visit; a place to bring family and friends, young and old. Now, we even have chipmunks and squirrels to add to the charm.”
Cornville resident Kim Johanson says the new location, complete with white-picket fences, plants galore, easy parking and friendly staff, is a place she plans to frequent on her trips to Flagstaff.
“I come to Flagstaff regularly to enjoy the trees and trails, especially in the summer and fall,” Johanson said. “Now, I have another stop to make when I come up the hill. This place reminds me of where I grew up in New England. I just love all the hay and the hundreds of orange and white pumpkins framed by the yellow, red and gold fall leaves.”
After wandering through the corn stalks, walkways and bridges, pumpkins and gourds, outdoor chairs and tables, and the numerous holiday decorations, Johanson decided to complete her entryway decor with the purchase of a large white pumpkin with a stem, commenting that it is difficult to find pumpkins with stems, especially at grocery stores.
“I just love that Viola’s is on my way home and when I come here I feel like I just visited my childhood home back east. I can’t wait to see what they will do for Christmas.”
In November, Viola’s will transition from spooky to happy, as they phase out autumn and bring in Christmas and winter. Live and cut Christmas trees and other winter plants and decorations will be available.
The garden, grounds and store will go dormant after Christmas for a few months – just like the plants. The owners say they will reopen in spring with a wide array of flowers, plants, seeds, trees, shrubs and other vegetation.
In addition, the 6,000-square-foot building is getting a makeover before spring. Walters and Escobedo plan to use the indoor and outdoor space to host special events such as their popular pansy party and tomato festival. The building and grounds also will be available to rent for weddings, receptions, parties and more.
With the expanded outdoor and retail space, Walters and Escobedo plan to omit landscaping and snow removal services to focus instead on the plant-growing and special events side of the business. FBN
By Starla S. Collins, FBN
Viola’s Flower Garden, 7085 S. Hwy 89A, Flagstaff (formerly Jackson’s Grill, south of Fort Tuthill); 928.526.0202; violasflowergarden.com. Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Photo by Starla Collins