The History of Al's
Al’s Garden & Home’s roots started when Al and Ann Bigej proudly opened Al’s Fruit Stand in 1948. The structure consisted of an unused chicken coop along Hwy. 99E in Woodburn. Al began selling fruit and produce to residents and tourists who traveled along the highway.
Seventy-five years later, Al’s dream has evolved into a third-generation, family-owned business. Currently, Al’s Garden & Home, employs more than 200 people with three growing facilities and four retail locations: our flagship 10.5-acre garden center in Sherwood, 6-acre garden center in Woodburn, 3.9 acre garden center in Gresham, and 3.5-acre garden center in Wilsonville.
A PASSION FOR PLANTS
Much of the business’s success is owed to Al’s middle son, Jack, who is recognized as the true entrepreneur and current CEO, along with his passion for business and plants. Al’s Garden & Home’s success and growth can be attributed to Jack’s innovative ideas.
"My dad’s vision started to go bad around the time I was in high school, so I helped him in the store. He offered me $1.25 an hour, which was the going wage at that time, plus half of anything we made more than the year before. It was a heck of a deal for both of us,” Jack reminisces.
Al's original fruit stand
“And at the end of the season, he had to give me a $3,700 bonus because I had brought in plants. He paid me with no problem, but he had the bookkeeper look over books three times to make sure they were right! He couldn’t believe we had done so much better. So, that’s how Al’s got into the plant business.” From then on, the nursery was open year-round, and the name was soon changed to Al’s Fruit and Shrub Stand.
Plants provided a new source of revenue for the company, which proved beneficial because the construction of Interstate 5 soon redirected the tourist traffic. With the significant loss of tourist business, Jack expanded his customer base to the local community by selling nursery stock. Al left this new side of the business to Jack and remained focused on the fruit sales. The nursery business was successful and by 1961, Jack was brought into his father’s business as a partner.
Jack's nursery business continued to flourish. In 1970, the old chicken coop was replaced by a new building combining the fruit and the expanding nursery business. Today, Al’s Woodburn store is a six-acre garden center in the heart of the town’s business district. In 2016, readers of the Salem Statesman Journal newspaper voted the store “Best Nursery in the Mid-Valley.”
During the 1980s, Al’s health deteriorated, Jack took over running the entire business. Before long, the time had come to expand and diversify again. Jack added seasonal bedding plants into the product mix. Jack was certain that he was confident he could grow a higher-quality plant product at a lower cost to the customer. He wanted to differentiate Al’s Fruit and Shrubbery by providing a wider variety of plants than any competitor.
AL'S GROWS 80% OF THE PLANTS WE SELL IN OUR STORES
"The Farm" in Hubbard, OR
By 1982, Jack built greenhouses behind the Woodburn store. In 1993, the greenhouse operations expanded to “the Farm” in Hubbard. Jack phased produce out of the business in 1995 and expanded growing operations at the farm. The Gresham property was purchased in 1999, which includes several greenhouses. Later, in 2003, a production nursery was added outside Mt. Angel to grow trees and larger shrubs. In addition to its three growing locations, which are nationally-recognized for quality production and plant diversity, Al’s also runs four retail stores.
In 2004, the Gresham store opened with 13,000 sq. ft. of retail space in front of four acres of growing greenhouses. Al's Garden Center opened the Sherwood store in 2005, a 10.5-acre state-of-the-art garden center filled with annuals, perennials, nursery stock, fountains, pottery, garden supplies, a high-end gift department, and a wine/coffee café.
Plants, trees, and shrubs are delivered daily during peak seasons from the growing facilities to the stores. By growing locally, Al’s can provide a fresher, high-quality, and wider selection of plants to its customers.
AL'S IS DEDICATED TO HELPING MAKE YOU A SUCCESSFUL GARDENER
Throughout the years, Jack has become well-known in the horticulture community. He has lectured extensively across the United States and is known as an innovator who wants to get people excited about gardening. His knowledge is passed along first-hand to the committed retail staff at the stores who also share his passion for plants.
Gardening basics and new techniques are taught through seminars and workshops in the stores. And youngsters are encouraged to get their hands dirty in our Kids' Club classes.
AL'S IS A THIRD-GENERATION, LOCAL, FAMILY-OWNED BUSINESS
The Bigej Family
Though Al Bigej passed away in 1989, his legacy lives on through Jack and the Bigej family. His wife Deanna, is his sounding board and is an avid gardener. Three of their four children work in the family business. Darcy (Bigej) Ruef serves as Chief Financial Officer. Dorothy (Bigej) Russo manages the growing facilities, and Mark oversees the retail side as the Chief Operations Officer.
Jack is still amazed by the growth of Al’s Garden & Home, “Most of our growth has come from our desire to find ways to offer customers better quality, as well as to keep good people employed throughout the year.”
“WE’LL KEEP GROWING AS LONG AS YOU’LL KEEP PLANTING AND ENJOYING.”