Dow Pender had a passion for plants and in 1945 he started Pender Nursery next to his home in Raleigh. He loved flowering ornamentals, particularly azaleas and camellias and enjoyed developing his own varieties. In the 1960s Dow and his wife Rhea purchased 60 acres in a rural area near Garner. They moved the nursery there where a four room house from the early 1900s was used as the office and a single greenhouse was built for propagation. By 1980, when the current owner Jim Deal joined the nursery, there was about 3 acres in potted plant production and several acres of field production and 4 employees including Dow and Rhea. Seeing the potential at Pender Nursery and in the nursery industry, Jim with his wife Kathy became partners with Dow and Rhea and incorporated Pender Nursery in 1983.
Over the next 30 years the nursery grew from the original 3 acres to its current 70 acres. During that time the nursery moved to a wholesale only business with a focus on diversity, quality of potted plants and customer service. The 1990s were an exciting time at the nursery, Jim and Kathy became the sole proprietors, the economy was beginning to boom and technology was taking off. Pender was one of the first nurseries to install an automatic irrigation system and the computer age arrived at the nursery. In 1997 the new office was built, the first potting machine was up and running and an inventory to invoice computer system was installed. Pender was approached by another nursery to trial a new variety of repeat blooming azaleas. These became the Encore Azalea® brand and by 1998 Pender Nursery was selected to be the first licensed propagator of Encore Azaleas® on the east coast.
The recession that began in 2008 created many challenges for both Pender Nursery Inc. and the nursery industry in general. Construction slowed way down and many retail and wholesale nurseries closed or greatly reduced their operations. Although Pender continued to maintain its diversity and production, real changes were needed to move forward. Improved quality, more accurate quantities, inventory and more efficient processes were just some of the changes required to sustain business.
Throughout the ups and downs, the expansions and all the changes through the years, the heart of Pender Nursery Inc. has always been the employees that have made its success possible. They brought and continue to bring new ideas, different experiences and expertise, making their own special contribution to what Pender Nursery is today. Currently the nursery sits on approximately70 acres, with 70 greenhouses and has 55 -65 employees. Looking to the future, Pender has a dedicated Quality Management Team lead by the General Manager, consisting of department managers working together to ensure Pender has knowledgeable growers producing quality plants ready to meet customers’ needs with a professional sales staff providing quality services and shipping department providing timely deliveries.