There are many businesses in Bakersfield that pride themselves on their customer service and a great shopping experience, but there are few that can pair that with an exceptionally beautiful landscape.
Located in Bakersfield’s westside, Bolles Nursery offers all of the above, along with a slew of surprises, but it’s insistence on top-notch service to its retail and commercial customers has helped set the business apart.
“If you were just come in here and wander around it’s kind of zen like,” said longtime manager Susan Williams. “Sometimes we are real busy and there is a lot of hustle and bustle, but you know in the middle of the day you can just wander around. It’s a nice experience.”
For more than 25 years, Bolles has provided retail landscaping options, along with those for commercial customers, and it has transformed its Allen Road location into one of the more surprising business experiences to be found in Bakersfield.
From the rows of flowers, to water features and fountains spread throughout the grounds, to the stunning succulent greenhouse (one of the true gems), Bolles offers something for everyone, and Williams is proud of the experience.
“We have customers that have their engagement pictures taken here,” she said.
A Gem at Bolles Nursery: The Succulent Green House
The nursery was creation of Steve and Kellie Bolles, who launched the first nursery on Wible Road in 1991. A former oil field worker, Steve Bolles transitioned to landscape work before determining there was a place for a nursery that emphasized service and selection.
A few years later a customer, with a passion for gardening, kept coming by the nursery to pick up plants and ask questions of the Bolles. That customer was Williams, who loved the business and loved working in her yard.
Since she wasn’t working at the time, Williams could spend plenty of time working on her gardening, but Steve Bolles thought it was time for her to go back to work.
“One day he called me and said isn’t it time for you to go back to work?” she said.
After some thought, Williams accepted a position and eventually became the nursery’s manager. Sixteen years later she’s still enthusiastically running the nursery.
Water Features Abound At Bolles
“I get a lot of satisfaction out of finding plants for difficult situations in your yard,” Williams said. “Finding new plant material is a great thing.”
It’s that dedication to customer service, which is validated by 4-1/2 stars and glowing reviews on Yelp, that Williams says sets Bolles apart from other nurseries, especially the big box stores.
“I don’t compete with them,” Williams said. “Those customers are not my customers. If you ever really price check, I am mostly less expensive than Home Depot or Lowe’s.’’
Williams said that she also spends a lot of time talking and educating her customers about what can and cannot be planted in Bakersfield — another customer service strength, she said. Williams said during the height of the drought that people wanted California natives to cut back on water, but what they really needed was correct watering strategies.
“If you learn how to water you can have a regular yard here,” Williams said.
There have been challenges along the way, including relocating the nursery from its Wible Road location to the westside of Bakersfield at the height of the Great Recession.
The move, however, has worked out well for the Bolles, allowing the company to grow its commercial landscaping services and expand its offering of trees and other plants.
“If you need 151-gallon boxwoods, I’m going to have them on site,” Williams said of the nursery’s extensive inventory of ready-plant trees, bushes and other plantings. “We are just different.”
Originally, the Bolles’ property was the home of a commercial landscaping business, but the size of the lot has bolstered the company’s retail and commercial businesses. Now, Bolles’ has the inventory space and expertise to handle large-scale commercial jobs, which has become a key part of their business.
The layers of the offerings are deep at the nursery from the plantings, to aggregates that provide ground cover for landscaping and other services, including irrigation and sprinkler repairs. No job seems to be too small for the veteran staff, which Williams says has been the key to success.
“We don’t have a big turnover,” Williams said. “Everyone stays.”
At the end of the day, Williams says she believes that Bolles will be a destination for gardeners, landscapers or just for those who want to enjoy the beauty of the place for years to come.
“I hope it goes a long, long time,” she said. “I’ve got a lot time left.”