Jeff O'Donal, owner of O'Donal's Nursery in Gorham, with some Barth Daylily hybrid blooms. O'Donal recently bought a New Hampshire nursery to expand his business. Credit: Courtesy of O'Donal's Nursery

The owner of O’Donal’s Nursery in Gorham has purchased a garden center in New Hampshire that he said will allow him to expand his business in Mount Washington Valley, where demand for trees and shrubs is high.

Owner Jeff O’Donal bought McSherry’s Nursery & Garden Center, which is just over the Maine state line from Fryeburg in Center Conway, New Hampshire. The sale closed Dec. 20 for an amount O’Donal declined to specify. Both nurseries date to the early 1960s, making the owners pioneers in the modern-day garden center business.

“I was looking to retire and this just kind of fell out of the sky,” O’Donal, 63, said. “My goal is to supply nursery stock to the rapidly expanding North Conway market, which is not being served now. Then I’ll sell the business to employees in four to five years.”

He said Gorham, which is located west of Portland, is in a market saturated with garden centers and big-box stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot that have garden centers. But the market in North Conway only has a few small garden centers and a Lowe’s.

‘We grow nursery stock and have been delivering it to North Conway almost weekly,” he said. “With the new location we can supply the industry closer to home for them.”

Credit: Courtesy of O'Donal's Nursery

The plan is to transplant some of O’Donal’s nursery stock from the 60 acres in Gorham and Scarborough to the Center Conway location of McSherry’s and possibly to some new areas around the Saco River Valley in northern New Hampshire and southwestern Maine. That would increase the total amount of available nursery stock.

He said some of the changes at McSherry’s, which will retain its name, still are being reviewed by the planning board in Conway. He plans to relaunch an expanded McSherry’s this spring.

O’Donal’s grows trees and flowering shrubs including river birches, evergreens, cedar, hemlock, spruce, maple and lilacs. O’Donal’s and McSherry’s sell to both consumers and landscape architects.

The deal originated last September, when McSherry’s owner Gail McSherry called O’Donal and asked if he wanted to buy her nursery. He said he and his wife went to look at it and decided to buy it.

“My concern was being able to staff it,” O’Donal said. He plans to hire four new people he worked with in the past and keep at least one of the current employees at McSherry’s. The other McSherry workers, who he said are mostly part time or seasonal, will be able to apply for jobs. O’Donal expects to have 10 people on the payroll, half of them full time, plus some seasonal workers.

The O’Donal and McSherry families have known each other for a couple generations. O’Donal’s father, Royce, and McSherry’s father, John, started their businesses in 1960 and 1962, respectively.

“They knew each other as colleagues,” O’Donal said. He said he grew up with Gail McSherry and her daughter Paige Fox, who helped with the garden center.

O’Donal said the Gorham nursery dates back to 1850, when a different family, the Jackson’s, owned it. His parents bought it from the Jackson’s in 1960. The McSherry’s bought the Conway Center nursery in 1962 from the Eastman family, which had run the property as Western Maine Nursery.

“Our two families and the nurseries go back a long way,” O’Donal said.