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Haster Grove loses its bloom

October 01, 2004

BARBARA DIAMOND

Rogers Gardens made no friends in Laguna Beach by closing its

offspring, Haster Grove.

"People were in tears when I got here," Kathleen Abel said.

Abel was among those who flocked to the nursery Friday morning

after seeing the announcement of the closing in local papers.

Starr Allumbaugh, vice president of marketing and sales for the

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parent company, said the decision to close the successful nursery was

a difficult one.

"The store was doing very well, but business at Rogers Gardens is

growing by leaps and bounds and it was felt that we had to

concentrate on one location," Allumbaugh said.

Allumbaugh declined to discuss the terms of the lease, which

included the building at 1370 S. Coast Highway that housed gifts,

books and decorative items, as well as indoor plants. A separate back

parcel that fronts on Glenneyre Street contained the majority of

nursery stock, stock, pots, statuary, soil amendments and the parking

lot.

"I was surprised that Rogers Gardens pulled the plug," property

owner Charlie Kinstler said. "The lease only runs to March 2005,

although they had a 10-year option they could have exercised."

Kinstler said he offered to buy the nursery from Rogers Gardens,

took a week to get his ducks in a row and came back to the table to

find the price had been raised.

"I would have hired a local manager and kept all those nice

employees," Kinstler said. "It's sickening." Kinstler has his primary

home in Downey on an acre of property, but he claims strong ties to

Laguna Beach.

"My parents and my aunt owned homes in Laguna since 1967,"

Kinstler said. "I know a nursery is not the highest and best use of

that property -- we could build commercial in front with offices

above and parking and residential units in the back.

"But I am an avid gardener. The city needs a nursery. If anyone

has interest, they can call me at (562) 904-2288.

Nursery neighbor Richard Challis said based on the number of

vehicles he saw in the parking lot he doubts business was really

brisk at the nursery, no matter what Rogers Gardens people said. He

thinks the property will be developed.

A couple of years ago, Challis declined to sell the corner parcel

he owns next to the nursery to Kinstler.

"I want to leave the product of my years of work to benefit my

loved ones," said Challis, a pioneering Laguna Beach art gallery

owner.

The nursery is set to close Oct. 30 -- assuming there is anything

left to sell by then.

You couldn't find a parking space within a block on Saturday.

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