From potted plants to pecan trees, Honey Valley Nursery at 1026 East Lincoln Avenue was the “go-to” place in Sapulpa for amateur horticulturists.
Perry Collins, C.C. Collins’s grandson and Calvin Collins, Jr.’s son, explained how the nursery came into fruition and how it acquired its name.
C.C. Collins, the patriarch of the Collins family, was transferred to Sapulpa by the Southern Ice Company in 1942 to manage the ice plant on East Dewey Avenue, which he ran until he retired in 1966.
Because lumber was in short supply during World War II, C.C. bought an abandoned house in Kiefer and had it disassembled and the lumber hauled to his property on Lincoln, which he had purchased from the City of Sapulpa for a pittance. “They got enough good lumber out of it to build the house that is still there,” Perry said.
Thus began the foundation for the Collins’ family business.
Perry says, “Grandad was an amateur plant breeder. He liked to cross-breed stuff.” His grandfather built a greenhouse next to his home and the enterprise became a retail entity in 1946. “It was just a kind of a hobby thing in my grandad’s side yard. The nucleus for the nursery to actually exist as a retail operation was my dad’s idea, not my grandad’s. My dad was the one with the entrepreneurial spirit, like a lot of people in his generation. When Dad was in junior high, he kinda got the bug, and it stayed with him. Honestly, the nursery as people in Sapulpa remember it was actually my dad’s idea, but C.C., my grandad, said he started it.”
C.C. kept bees on the property where the nursery was later built. “Honey Valley Nursery was an apiary before it was a nursery, that was my grandad’s deal. At one time there were 100 beehives on the property. There was a large ‘gulley’ running diagonally through the property. The fact there were bees on the property and there was a gulley gave rise to the name, ‘Honey Valley.’”
Once Woodlawn school was built, however, concerns were raised about the safety of the school children in close proximity to the bees. Consequently, C.C. moved most of the bees out of town or sold them. He continued to sell beekeeping equipment out of his basement while Honey Valley Nursery was in operation.
Calvin Collins graduated from high school in 1954 and subsequently attended Oklahoma State University where he studied horticulture. “Calvin didn’t actually graduate from OSU. I don’t have the records…he attended two years or three years, I think it was three, and he had had enough and figured he knew what he needed to know. He did tell me he skipped around as a freshman and did not take a lot of freshman-level courses. He convinced his advisor to dive into upper-level horticulture, botany, and biology courses right off the bat. He made good enough grades that he made that happen.”
After his stint at OSU, Calvin returned to Sapulpa and married Maryetta Golden in June 1957, and in the same year, opened Honey Valley Nursery as a full-time business. The couple had two sons, Perry and Trey. Perry went on to major in Horticulture at OSU and his brother Trey majored in Agronomy.
According to Perry, “My dad and I were the front men, so to speak, to use an old fashioned term. My brother Trey was never interested in the retail side of it. He worked there his whole adult life until we closed it, but he ran the service side of it; landscaping retaining walls, French drains, that kind of thing. That is the part he wanted involved in, he wasn’t comfortable meeting and greeting, you know, and being the frontman in the store which was the role I kind of fell into, and my dad and I shared that. As I grew up, it sort of, kind of, allowed my dad to be semi-retired in the sense that the last ten years he did not have to spend all day, every day down there if he didn’t want to.”
Perry lamented the fact that vacations were virtually non-existent.
“What a lot of people don’t realize about that kind of business is that the majority of what you had to sell was alive. It was totally dependent on me and Dad, Trey, and the employees for its welfare while it’s there at the nursery…It’s completely vulnerable to any whim of the weather. You couldn’t take any trips in the fall and spring because it was too busy. You couldn’t take any trips in the dead of winter or the heat of the summer because in a freak weather occurrence you had to go down there and cover most of the place with Visqueen and light smudge pots. We got really good at covering the palace up, lighting heaters, and staying down there all night.”
Nearly everyone in town purchased some item at Honey Valley. Many live Christmas trees were flocked, delivered, and set up in people’s homes from the iconic business. Others, such as Rick Tyler, would purchase a tree and carry it home. “Calvin always saved me a 10-foot tree, with 12-foot ceilings it was perfect. Getting it up 30 stairs and down again was another thing.”
There are trees today in Sapulpan’s yards that were purchased decades ago at Honey Valley. Rick Tyler has a Bradford Pear Calvin planted that now soars 20 feet above his two-story building.
Perry eventually left the business to pursue another career and Trey’s wife, Johnna, took over his role in the business. In 2002, Calvin Collins passed away. “My mother and my wife and his wife kept it open for four more years,” said Perry. He said the advent of box stores and lawn maintenance companies doing landscaping impacted the profitability of the business.
In July of 2007, all the equipment was auctioned off and the property was sold to a local businessman, David Nabozny, who razed the building a few days later.
Both Calvin and his wife Maryetta were active in the community and in their church. Calvin served on the Sapulpa City Council, was a member of the Jaycees and the Chamber of Commerce, was an active member of the First United Methodist Church, and was involved in Boy Scouts.
Maryetta was also an active member of FUMC, volunteered with the Salvation Army, Creek County Election Board, PEO, and the Sapulpa Historical Museum.
Although Honey Valley Nursery has been gone for well over a decade, the goods and service its owners and employees provided, as well as the community spirit demonstrated by all who were involved in that business, will never be forgotten.