WHO: Hill Country African Violets & Nursery, in Boerne, and its faithful customers.
WHAT: A little holiday magic to help keep a small business afloat, while brightening doorsteps across the region.
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: In a typical year, Hill Country African Violets & Nursery sells nearly two thousand poinsettias between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Owner Ken Froboese usually brings in a fresh batch of the red, white, pink, or variegated beauties every week leading up to the holidays. Lately, though, demand has slumped, perhaps due to a slowing economy and heavy construction up and down this stretch of Interstate 10 just south of Boerne. Several local churches reserved their usual lots, but the nursery otherwise sold just a few poinsettias on some days. By the time Froboese and his crew would normally expect to sell out, they still had more than 650 plants sitting on the shelf.
That was hard to take for Froboese, who told Texas Monthly that the nursery has grown as a labor of love, eventually thriving in its current location for more than forty years. The business started with just one greenhouse, adding another and then another as it gradually amassed a devoted customer base from north of Kerrville to south of San Antonio. The gardeners who staff the shop have always taken great pride in providing plants that do well in the tough Central Texas climate. You can also find a remarkable variety of exotics here, including those namesake violets. Walk through one of the ten toasty and verdant greenhouses, and it’s immediately apparent why this homegrown business has stood the test of time. Neat rows of snapdragons in every color, riots of bromeliads, and inviting hanging baskets wait behind each door, and an earthy, herby scent fills the air.
That’s why Froboese was feeling pretty low about his equally low sales. Though he doesn’t “do much with the Facebook,” he took a minute to let the shop’s followers know that there was an unprecedented bargain to be had if they could brave the orange construction barrels.
Not only did the community share that post more than four hundred times, they also bought four hundred poinsettias the very next day. “It was such an unbelievable response,” said Froboese. “People came in from San Antonio and all over. We had a lady call from Lubbock!” By closing time on the second day, there were only a few poinsettias left.
San Antonio resident Pamela Price has been a longtime customer. “The staff knows what grows in the region and steers customers toward what will actually grow here, versus what can be picked up at a big box store,” Price said. When she saw the Facebook post, she hit “share” and then headed out to buy a pink poinsettia: “I didn’t need three ghosts to visit me to spark Christmas spirit.”
That spirit welled in Froboese and his staff, too, after such an overwhelming show of support for a struggling small business. “We’ve always had such wonderful customers, and we value each and every one of them,” he said. “We just can’t thank everyone enough.”
Though the store still has plenty of other cheery seasonal plants—including cyclamen, amaryllis, and Christmas cactus—if you want a poinsettia from Hill Country African Violets & Nursery this year, it’ll take a miracle. As of Tuesday, they were sold out.