Tucked away in northern Hillsborough on New Sharon Church Road sits a vibrant garden – a space that opens up with bursts of color and refreshing spring smells once you walk inside.
This is Multiflora Greenhouses, and was more concealed until a couple years ago when, in 2014, wife and husband duo Julie Smith Mason and Richard Mason bought the greenhouse and decided to increase community connectivity and involvement in education.
Although the greenhouse does some retail, it is primarily a wholesale business, as they have several hundred varieties of plants across six acres of growth, including five greenhouses, two hoop houses, and a vast outdoor growing area.
Multiflora has a long-standing tradition of delivering superior quality plants to their customers with a great reputation in the marketplace, selling to retailers up and down the east coast. Now, with new management, Multiflora is focusing on fundraising and education with schools, churches, and various other organizations.
“This business was always running well, and it goes back to your roots,” Richard said. “People love to plant, they love to garden – even in difficult economic times.
“This is a company that does beautiful things for its customers,” he continued. “And we receive tremendous fulfillment.”
The journey to ownership
Richard was born in Boston and raised in rural upstate New York, in Herkimer, a primarily dairy and cheesemaking community, and remained in the area to attend Cornell, gaining a degree in Economics and Business. As the economics degree was under Cornell’s Agriculture Economics School, Richard recalls taking a horticulture class an elective, saying it is “ironic” that he now works in a horticultural business.
Julie grew up in Michigan and recalls living a very health-oriented lifestyle with her parents who were “hippies from the 60s and into organic before it was cool.”
She graduated from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York and has worked as a nutrition health coach.
With Richard’s business background and Julie’s passion for health and organic growing, when they met it was the perfect match. Before happening upon Multiflora, they were seeking a business they could own in North Carolina that was a “purposeful and meaningful business that allowed [them] to work with the community and wonderful people.”
After several searches, they finally stumbled upon Multiflora, with no idea it was in Hillsborough, just down the road from where they lived in Chapel Hill.
“It’s not only purposeful but it allows us to be associated with nature,” Richard said. “Julie and I both love nature; we’re outdoors-oriented people, so when we came here the first time and saw the beauty…” he trailed off. “It’s therapeutic, a relaxing way to deal with the stressful times we all live in.”
When they walked into the greenhouse, they said they knew it was already working and producing a great product, so they reinvented the outsiders’ view on Multiflora, adding a visible, new face to Multiflora that the community could grasp.
“We took it, refreshed it, brought in a new energy, and we’ve opened our arms to the community by holding an annual open house event at the beginning of every spring,” Richard said. “We came in with the mindset that this is nature, this is our community, and we want to open our arms and share it with the entire Raleigh-Durham community and beyond.”
Spring season, looking ahead
Spring is the greenhouses largest season, but they have extended the season with a Valentine’s Day program, shipping ferns to other greenhouses primarily in February.
Spring is a time for a vast variety of blooming flowers, while summer often serves as a “regrouping” season to catch their breath, do strategic planning, maintenance and repair, so by the fall season at the end of August, they are able to sell large quantities of herbs and vegetable plants until the first week of November where the sales coincided with poinsettia season, in which they annual ship around 270,000 poinsettias out.
As spring kicks off – their biggest season each year since gaining ownership – Multiflora has hosted their spring open house, an event gathering the community, and this year expected to have over 2,500 attending.
On April 1, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. they’re doing it again – with a live local band, Johnny Scoggins and the Southern Breeze Band, food, raffles and door prizes for the first 200 people.
With two raffles – general and grand prize – they have received donations from local merchants in downtown Hillsborough and Johnson Lexus, who donated a package good for a car detail, luxury rental, DPAC tickets, and $150 dinner expense.
The proceeds will go to two nonprofit organizations: Maple View Agricultural Education Center and the Fairview Community Garden.