A Farewell to Frear’s Garden Center

Story by Maureen Whalen

Photos by Pat Worboys

Frear's Garden Center
Frear’s Garden Center

Frear’s Garden Center

1892 to 2022

130 Years of Local Gardening Expertise

Gallery of photos at the end of the story

The Frear family has been part of the Greece landscape for 130 years, 93 of them over four generations as proprietors of one of the town’s iconic businesses. In May of this year, Warren and Lynn Frear announced that Frear’s Garden Center was closing.

Pat Worboys and I visited Frear’s on June 13 and interviewed Warren and Lynn for a future Bicentennial Snapshot. Lynn explained that a series of misfortunes led to the difficult decision. First, a windstorm on March 6 of this year seriously damaged their greenhouses; they lost over 350 panes of glass and consequently, the plants that were growing in the greenhouses, particularly all their Easter lilies, died. Parts of the roof of the garden center and shingles on the barn were torn off as well. That was followed by a customer-caused small fire that produced enough smoke that they needed to hire a cleaning service to come in and thoroughly clean everything. On top of that were the supply chain problems created by COVID-19 (their vendors were telling them Christmas merchandise wouldn’t be available until January or February!). Lynn said, “it seemed like someone was trying to tell us something.” Their last day was July 31, 2022.

Left is Kerry In the Middle is Lynn and to the Right is Warren
Left is Kerry In the Middle is Lynn and to the Right is Warren.
november 9 1861
Notice on the beam here it has the date of November 9, 1861.
Aerial view of recent image.
E. Frear & Sons. sign in the section that housed the Farmall Super A.

Warren’s grandfather, Ernst Frear, a German immigrant, purchased the property on Stone Road in 1892. He was a truck farmer initially, selling vegetables to wholesalers. In the 1920s Clarence Frear, Ernst’s son and Warren’s father expanded the business, then known as E. Frear & Sons. They acquired greenhouses “from Barnard Crossing,” Warren said, (they may have been from Vick’s nurseries) and expanded to fruit trees and flowers. After Ernst’s death in 1937, the west side of the farm was being used for Frear’s Chevrolet, started by Arthur Frear in 1931. Clarence’s east side was the farm and Frear’s Florist. Clarence’s wife, Gwendolyn, took a course in flower arranging and like other florists provided arrangements for weddings, funerals, and other occasions. The public was also invited to visit their greenhouses for a wide variety of bedding plants.

It was in this barn here that Arthur Frear started Frear’s Chevrolet in 1931.

In 1958, they announced another expansion—it became Frear’s Farm Market. In addition to the bedding plants, fruits, and vegetables, they began selling garden accessories and opened a deli.

5000 gallons of oil
This held 5000 gal of oil that heats the greenhouse compared to lots of coal.
This is where a coal conveyer belt ran before switching to oil.

An ad in the Greece Post in 1965 publicized another change, Frear’s Lawn, Garden, and Greenhouse Center. That same year, Frear’s started their Christmas Tree, Trim, and Gift Center, a modest beginning to what would evolve over the years into Christmas Fantasy Land with 6000 square feet devoted to every imaginable Christmas decoration including artificial trees, lights, and creches. Eventually, it became simply Frear’s Garden Center.

Warren and Lynn took over the business in 1976; their daughter Kerry was the fourth generation involved in the Center.

Warren and Lynn escorted Pat and me around the property. Only Christmas items and indoor plants remained. The greenhouses were mostly empty. They showed us the barns, one still full of boxed Christmas trees. Built around 1902, these barns date back to Warren’s grandfather. On Stone Road not far from the garage where Art Frear started his auto dealership, stands the family homestead, Warren’s grandparents’ house. No Frears have lived there for some time, but no one resides there now due to a fire.

The Frear Family Home Stead.
To the Far Left was the Slaughter Room, To the left, is where all the Christmas Trees and where a fire in the 1960s or 70s was to the right is where a Farmall Super A stored and the picture above with the beam with the date of 11-9-1861.

From their many years at the Center, Warren and Lynn recall what was best about doing business in Greece: the many young employees who became knowledgeable about plants and serving customers well and those customers who were loyal to Frear’s and appreciated the individualized service and advice they could get from people who had been in the plant business for decades.

It was Frear’s for years. Thank you. You’ll be missed.