Sponsored link
Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Sponsored link

Arts + CultureCultureAt 100, plant paradise Delano Nursery is still turning...

At 100, plant paradise Delano Nursery is still turning over new leaves

The wholesale nursery is spreading its limbs, from the Mission to Pescadero—while investing in its diverse employees.

In 2014, Lauren Borden worked in the San Francisco Flower Market in a space across from John Nicolini, whose grandfather started Delano Nursery, Inc., a wholesale interior plant nursery, in 1922. Borden, who studied horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco, planned to move on from her floral design job, and she asked Nicolini if he’d like some assistance. He took her up on it. 

“John just looked miserable because he worked so early and so many hours. He basically was running the ship with, like, three people,” she said. “I asked him if he needed some help, and he said, ‘Yeah,’ so I would come in at three in the morning and unsleeve hydrangeas. It was so fun, and I loved working with plants. He trusted me a lot and had me work more and I dragged his butt to all these different nurseries. We tried a lot of new stuff, and we’ve grown at an average of about 35 percent a year.”

Now, at 29, Borden’s the general manager and co-owns the business with Nicolini. Delano’s has grown from five employees to 17 during her time there. 

Women and people of color make up more than 90 percent of the staff at Delano, and Borden says that means different perspectives, which she credits for the nursery’s success. Another reason she thinks the nursery has done well is because she and Nicolini believe in treating staff well. In agriculture, the average starting wage is around $9 an hour. At Delano, it’s $25—plus benefits. 

“I feel like investing in your employees makes a huge difference. Everyone has a story about how much they hate their job or their boss, and I never want to be that company,” Borden said. “We have a livable wage for employees, we have health care, vacation pay in your first year even, maternity leave, sick pay, bereavement pay, we pay lunches even. John understood that, and he backed me on that and we’ve been able to do our best to treat people well.”

In its centennial year (they don’t know the exact date, so they decided to go with celebrating January 9, because 1/9/22 mimics the founding year), Delano is expanding to Pescadero, where they will have 140,000 feet of greenhouses along with the wholesale nursery in Daly City, a wholesale center in the San Francisco Flower Market, and a retail store on Mission Street called Bunk in San Francisco. 

A selection of adorable offerings from Delano’s Mission retail store Bunk

Borden looks forward to the expansion and growing more of their own plants, a huge saving on shipping. She and her co-workers are excited to try out hydroponics to save water as well as testing out different soils and growing methods. 

And Borden, a queer woman, has has other ideas to shake up the industry where most owners are white straight and male. 

“When we have the Pescadero property, I want to be a resource for women in agriculture,” she said. “I’m like the queen of grant writing and there are so many different resources, especially for the Latino population. I’ve been trying to reach out to grower friends and turn them on to different grants. I want to be a hub for those kinds of things.” 

A few years ago, Borden says she never thought she’d be the general manager of a successful nursery and she appreciates all the faith Nicolini has in her. “I’m super grateful to John and his family for letting me into their not family legacy and helping me continue it,” she said. “All that blind trust has gotten us here, and we’re doing well and it’s great.” 

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Emily Wilson
Emily Wilson
Emily Wilson lives in San Francisco. She has written for different outlets, including Smithsonian.com, The Daily Beast, Hyperallergic, Women’s Media Center, The Observer, Alta Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, California Magazine, UC Santa Cruz Magazine, and SF Weekly. For many years, she taught adults getting their high school diplomas at City College of San Francisco. She hosts the short biweekly podcast Art Is Awesome.

Sponsored link


2000s dancing in 2024? Fringe party still gives electric feels

The Saturday, celebrate 15 brilliant years of Killers, Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and more indie dance darlings.

Under the Stars: ‘If you don’t like the city, you can leave the city, sir’

SECRET SECRET lays it out. Plus: Ambrose Akinmusire, The Pretenders, Norio Maeda—and Jaye P. Morgan from 'Match Game'?

Breed’s allegiance to the Yimby movement is hurting her political future

Some of her Big Tech allies have abandoned her—and now the neighborhoods are unhappy too.

More by this author

Tosha Stimage’s ‘SUPERBLOOM’ invites Presidio visitors into Bay’s rich floral heritage

Florist's Chilean strawberries and California poppies budded from research into the land.

At de Young, local artists eye ‘The Peaceable Kingdom’—and US colonialism

Lee Mingwei challenged 'a family tree' of artists to reinterpret Edward Hicks' famous 1846 allegorical painting.

At ‘Noonan Unlocked,’ Pier 70 artists will display their resilient community

Storied studio building throws open its doors before redevelopment transforms the tight-knit creative clan
Sponsored link

You might also likeRELATED