Saturday, April 19, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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El Rancho Nursery grows plants – and loyal customers

El Rancho Nursery

Ray Lopez stands with palm trees at El Rancho Nursery in Vacaville, Thursday. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

By
From page SOS11 | December 29, 2013 | Leave Comment

FAIRFIELD — Trees? Plums, pluots, peaches, pears, just to name a few.

Roses? There are rose bushes, rose trees, climbing roses and rose carpets.

“We’ve been here since 1979,” Ray Lopez, owner of El Rancho Nursery, said recently while standing in the middle of his acre-and-a-half nursery. “Back then, there were cows grazing next door.”

The cows are gone. Their pasture is being replaced by 100 carpenters and other tradespeople currently building a large new apartment complex on the north side of Interstate 80 just east of Leisure Town Road.

Trees are plentiful, potted plants of all kinds surround the sales office full of fertilizers, pest repellants and a plethora of diverse outdoor decorations.

A 20-foot-tall unnamed metal giraffe sits in the middle of the nursery’s flora, fauna and foliage of the nursery, silently tilting its head toward the new apartments adjacent to the Camping World RV center.

Lopez and his employees spend their days surrounded by more than 2,000 15-gallon shade trees, more than 1,000 rose bushes and more than 1,500 fruit trees. All are ready for planting.

El Rancho Nursery was serving green thumbers and not-so-green thumbers throughout Solano County long ago with a steady clientele who have appreciated the knowledge and growing prowess that can be missing at big-box merchants.

“We were here long before Home Depot and Lowe’s came to town,” Lopez said. ”Running a nursery is a lot like farming. It’s so dependent on the weather.”

“I remember one winter when it was 9 degrees for nine straight days. Everybody’s plants died. One guy laughed about it and told me I’d be making a lot of money selling them new plants,” Lopez said. “I laughed with him and had him look around the nursery and he realized all our plants had pretty much also been wiped out by the cold.

“We’ve been through killer frosts, droughts, building booms and recessions. This has been the longest recession of them all.”

“We go with the flow,” Lopez said of the business started by his mother and father and now operated by him, his wife and their daughter. “Landscaping is one of our main things. In the last few years, we’ve been selling trees to customers with a ‘you buy them, we plant them’ offer. A 15-gallon tree – we’re only going to charge $20 to plant it for the buyer. We don’t make any money charging that much, but it sure does help us sell a lot of trees.”

Sometimes it’s about the little things. Every year, loyal customers sign up, putting their name on a waiting list to receive onion plants. Not just any onion, but a specialty onion – the Stockton onion, a particularly pungent and tasty onion.

“We usually get about 15 cases,” Lopez said. “That’s 2,000 onions per case.”

And Lopez sells them all.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or jsullivan@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

El Rancho Nursery & Landscape

  • 5098 Ellsworth Road, Vacaville, 447-3388
  • Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday (closed Tuesday); 9:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday
  • Website: www.elranchonursery.com

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.
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