On the way back from Sunday brunch at Oglebay, we decided to stop by Nicky’s Garden Center’s new location on Warden Run Road to buy my mother-in-law a flower for her birthday. What we found was a whole lot more than petunias and roses. Nicky’s new location is a realization of a decade’s long dream of owners P.J. and Nikki Lenz.
When we pulled into the lot, my 4-year-old nearly jumped out of the car with excitement as he ran toward the playground. I was thrilled to find that right next to the slides and swings in a newly renovated farmhouse is one of the best little coffee shops in town. Jill, the barista most days of the week, serves up delicious organic teas and coffees and loves to chat about everything from the weather to life in Wheeling.
Nicky’s opened its doors across the river in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in 1972 under the ownership of the original Nicky. PJ worked for him for years, and when the Garden Center went up for sale, he and his wife (coincidentally named Nikki) bought it. Eventually, the business moved to Bethany Pike in Wheeling, bringing with it several dedicated customers.
Soon after, PJ began dreaming of owning the current site on Warden Run Road. For more than 15 years, he hoped that the owner, Louis Lasch, would sell him the property and 1800s structure. Shortly before his death, however, Mr. Lasch agreed to sell it, knowing that PJ would not tear down the home, which had been in his wife’s family for many decades.
As soon as the deed was signed, PJ and Nikki got to work making their dreams a reality. The toughest part of the project was remodeling the home, which is now a coffee and gift shop. They retained its stunning Italianate architecture and added many new features that make it feel cozy and welcoming.
Although some records indicate that the house was built in 1884, evidence found during remodeling and the opinions of local architecture experts indicate that it was possibly constructed in the 1860s or before. According to the Friends of Wheeling, the original owner was Henry Fischer, who sold the property to Jacob Lasch in 1932 for his son John S. Lasch and his wife, Irene. They established a dairy farm, known as Hillwood Dairy, which operated on the property until 1960. The house itself was listed on the National Register in 1986.
Although the home itself could easily steal the spotlight at Nicky’s, visitors will find it hard to resist the garden center, which is just a short walk from the coffee shop. As soon as I stepped through the front door, I was enveloped in greens and reds and pinks. Every surface is covered in flowers and other plants, the majority of which are grown on site in the greenhouse at the other end of the property.
The garden center also offers a variety of organically grown fruits and vegetables at their seasonal farmers market, which is open each day during business hours. While there, I sampled apples and pears, which were deliciously sweet and fresh. Nikki and PJ assured me that they choose only the best fruits and vegetables and try to buy locally as much as possible. In addition, many shoppers may not realize that Nicky’s creates fresh flower centerpieces and other specialty floral arrangements for any occasion.
Now that fall has arrived in the Valley, Nicky’s Garden Center is ready for the season with a fire pit, pumpkins, mums, pumpkin spice lattes, and other traditional autumn goodies. And they will continue their invitation to parents and kids to come and play on their play set by offering 10 percent off for parents in their coffee shop from 9:30-11:30 a.m. every Friday through the end of October.
Fall isn’t the only season Nicky’s celebrates with gusto. Buying a Christmas tree and other holiday greenery at Nicky’s is a family tradition for many locals. Nikki assured me that she has all new decorations for the coffee and gift shop and grounds, which are certain to be spectacular when decked with lights and all the trimmings.
Of the many opportunities now made possible by their new location, hosting events is one they are most excited about. They host birthday parties, bridal showers, and even fundraising events for local organizations. It is a beautiful setting, especially for an outdoor event. Parking is good, and so is seating, which includes several tables and chairs on their outdoor patio. In addition, Nicky’s has plans to add comfortable couches and coffee tables to the gift shop’s green room, so that guests can sip coffee when the weather gets cold.
I’ve always been impressed by the expertise and kindness of Nicky’s employees. When I mentioned that to Nikki and PJ, they said the staff is carefully selected to ensure that the Garden Center vision is carried out daily. That vision includes a passion for gardening, positivity, and partnership. Nikki and PJ consider their employees family, and they are proud of the way in which they work together not only to maintain a better business, but also to create a workplace that inspires joy and honesty. From what I have seen over the years, mission accomplished.