I remember it like it was yesterday, which is really something to say as I tend to frequently forget what I did over the weekend! This weekend, on June 30th, marks a very special occasion for Brent & Becky’s, as we celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of my folks, Brent and Becky Heath. In honor of this momentous occasion, the “Brent and Becky’s family” would like to commemorate this special event by sharing with you some snapshots of our rich history and the story of the family that started it all!
Charles & Daffodils: Where it All Started
Gloucester County is our home. Our town. Our Main Street. Our restaurants. Our small businesses. Our families. We can’t imagine living anywhere else! It was established in 1651 and is an area rich in history. It has been home to many great historical figures, including Walter Reed, Thomas Calhoun Walker, Powhatan, and Pocahontas, just to name a couple. It’s also home to a thriving seafood industry, and the title “The Land of the Life Worth Living!” And, it’s also well known for a certain plant: the Daffodil. But, what you may not know is, Gloucester may not be celebrating this love for the Daffodil if it wasn’t for Brent’s grandfather, Charles Heath, and his love of a cantaloupe.
One morning in the year 1900, as he was enjoying his breakfast, Charles tasted one of the most marvellous cantaloupes he’d ever eaten. He was so enchanted with the taste that he went straight to the local grocer to track down the farmer to have them delivered regularly when they were in season. Honored by Charles’ request, the farmer invited Charles to come visit him at Elmington Plantation in Virginia and, on his journey from New England, Charles came across something he loved even more than the tasty melon.
Growing in the fields along the roadside were some of the most beautiful flowers he’d ever seen: daffodils. And thus began a love affair that would span generations. He quickly packed up his home and moved to Auburn Plantation, just across the river from his farmer friend, and started his own bulb farm—not yet knowing what it would become.
The Daffodil Mart: Beginning a Booming Bulb Business
Shortly after making the move to Virginia, Charles turned his love of the daffodil into a booming cut flower business. Later, the company became particularly successful in the wake of the 1920s embargo on Dutch bulbs by the US government due to an infestation of nematodes. Cut off from trade, the Dutch turned their attention to Charles as their main source of bulb production and thus began the legacy, which continued with Charles’ son, George.
After returning home from China, where he had been working with the American Tobacco Company, George began preparing to take over the daffodil business from his father. He threw himself into learning about bulb production from the Dutch and tirelessly promoted the Daffodil, making them one of the most popular bulbs of his time. Together, George and his wife, Katie, grew the Daffodil Mart catalogue to over 1500 different varieties of the bulb beauties—far more than any other growers in America at the time—and earned Gloucester the title of the “Daffodil Capital of America.”
Along Came Brent: A New Chapter
In 1945, George and Katie welcomed a son into the world, Brent, who rapidly adopted the family’s love of daffodils. By the age of 9, he could identify over 50 different varieties of daffodils by sight alone! In 1972, he purchased the Daffodil Mart from his mother to continue to grow that inherent affection. But that’s not all he loved.
Anyone who knows Brent knows his love for all the delights of the natural world—including natural science, birds and wildlife, rocks and shells, and overall gardening know-how. But in the late 1970s, another special something began taking up room in his heart. And in 1979, he married her.
Brent & Becky: The Iconic Duo
Previously a school teacher and avid vegetable gardener, my mother, Becky, was a natural fit for the Heath family—not just as Brent’s wife, but as a business partner. She brought balance to the business, confidently taking over the business side of things as Brent focused in on his passion: being the “bulb guy” and plantsman. Over the years, both their relationship and the business have grown leaps and bounds.
Together, along with us “ankle biters” and the help of many brilliant part-timers over the years, the team managed to plant, grow, dig, clean, sort, pick, pack, and ship over 2500 different varieties of bulbs all across the country, all from our 10-acre “Mom and Pop” farm. As demand grew and their name became more established, the business transformed—from the Daffodil Mart, to Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, and finally to Brent & Becky’s as it’s known today. And the name isn’t the only thing that’s changed.
Brent & Becky’s now operates on a combined 18 acres. This includes the shipping, storage, and office facility where all Brent & Becky’s bulbs are sorted and shipped, as well as the Chesapeake Bay Friendly Gardens; 8 acres of display gardens featuring not just bulbs, but perennials, annuals, trees, shrubs, and grasses! Plus, it also houses The Bulb Shoppe, our local retail shop specializing in all things garden and bulb, as well as jewelry, garden decor, tools, fresh flowers, clothing, and more.
Now, Brent and Becky, along with me and my wife, Denise, continue to work to bring the gardens to the next generation. But we will always hold on to what made us what we are today. Sticking to the values of offering the best product available, at a fair price, and being open to a two-way conversation of education along the way. You learn from us, we learn from you. It’s the foundation that was created about 119 years ago, but perfected 40 years ago this weekend, upon which a strong business could be built. From the entire team at Brent and Becky’s, we would like to wish a very HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to Brent and Becky! (a.k.a “Bee and Pap” by the grandkids!)
Jay Hutchins, "Grin"-eral Manager, Brent & Becky's, and his wife, Denise
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