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Goodbye to Persson's, a Local Institution (Dispatches)

Longtime institution Persson's Nursery--located near the confluence of Altadena, Pasadena, and Sierra Madre--appears to have been closed down, its entrance locked up, and its plants left out to die in the sun. Another victim of the recession?

Persson’s Nursery, located a stone’s throw away from Altadena on Sierra Madre Boulevard, caused a quite a stir–locally, anyway--several years ago.

It was David vs. Goliath. Southern California Edison, the owner of the property, wanted to convert the nursery space and surrounding land into a self-storage facility. Persson’s, a small, family-owned-and-operated business, appealed the decision. 

Soon, the open-space crowd got riled up, and they led a grassroots effort to keep the storage pods out.  After several years, in 2008, it seemed the little guy won. Not only would Persson’s stay put, SCE’s development partner promised, among other things, to add bike paths and public park spaces to the undeveloped areas near and under the powerlines.

A happy ending; like a nice little update of a Jimmy Stewart movie. It’s a wonderful life.

But a few short years after fighting the good fight, Persson’s has apparently closed. And not with a bang, and not with a whimper; we didn't even hear them shut the door. This summer, the gates were locked with no fanfare whatsoever, and row upon row of trees, bush, and  flowers  left to wither and die in the sun. 

I didn’t know Persson’s was no longer with us when I drove there on Saturday to pick up some supplies. But behind the locked gate, there were flora corpses everywhere, and no petitions or picketers could save it now. I figured I must have somehow missed all the news pieces about this. I was wrong.

A Victim  of the Financial Meltdown?

Since the financial meltdown, I’m not sure whether it’s our priorities or just our focus that has changed.

Near as I can tell, only one news source gave any mention to the closing of Persson’s, and that was the Mountain Views News. No local TV, no L.A. Times, no Pasadena Star-News, not this time.

According to the MV story, the nursery owners ran into some sad, sad luck of a personal nature, and fell behind on their bills.

I wonder if SCE will now, quietly, carry out its original plan and convert all the space to storage units. They won’t have to worry about running into all those bike paths and public parks they promised.

Had this happened in a pre-financial meltdown climate, what a local story this would have been, what drama.  A family battles to save their independent business, they win, then comes tragedy and defeat.

But it’s 2011, and foreclosures and lost businesses are just part of our daily landscape.

My dog and I take a long walk every day. The route varies, but we can’t avoid seeing a foreclosed house or two along the way.

If you wander around these abandoned houses, you’ll find the families have left a few things behind–a doll, a child’s ball, something that seems almost purposefully poignant.   You know those tearjerker movies that coldly calculate what will make us cry?  These are the props they’d choose.

But of course, whatever happened in the houses, it  wasn’t calculated. That’s the problem.  The people got caught in an accident, a smash-up.  And each one has a different story, it’s just the ending that’s the same. 

I haven’t a ghost of a solution for how to improve the current situation. I’m just saying, in these hard times, when families lose their home, or owners lose their family business, let’s acknowledge the loss.  At the very least, let’s say goodbye.  

This is one of a continuing series chronicling how we are dealing with the economic crisis. Tell us what issues and what stories in Altadena Patch go to the heart of your American Dream. Please contact editor Dan Abendschein at dan.abendschein@patch.com.

This article originally referred to the Mountain Views News as the Mountain View Observer.

Leslie Aitken August 23, 2011 at 02:54 PM
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navigio August 23, 2011 at 03:12 PM
Yeah, I noticed the dead plants a few days ago. Was pretty sad. That said, that would be one of the worst places I could imagine for some temporary storage facility. that is one of the few areas around there that exudes more nature and openness than civilization (even while being on a large thoroughfare and in having houses across the street). there should be a law that anything put there cannot be seen from the mountains because it is too covered with trees. yeah right..
Pasadena Adjacent August 23, 2011 at 03:23 PM
I was at Present Perfect nursery yesterday (also the owners of shuttered Altadena Nursery up on Lincoln). PP is under the wires south of Fedco. When I drove out the driveway I noticed the large adjacent property, also under the wire and once loaded with plant stock, was empty. Somethings up
Kirk Rogers August 23, 2011 at 04:28 PM
This is just a sign of times. It is tough and only the strong survive.
Patrick Lee August 23, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Oh, no! We bought all of our plants from these guys! Sorry to hear this news!
Lori A. Webster August 23, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Karen, bless you for your ode to the independent recently departed. You've managed to touch our hearts with your story, a sad testament to the these brutal times. The comment that only the strong survive is a myth - even the independently strong need a community's help to survive. If everyone's too afraid to spend, then even the strong may fall.
Karin Bugge August 23, 2011 at 07:37 PM
My garden is 75% Persson's. I'll miss them. Wish we'd seen this coming. Lori, I was going to add to Kirk's comment. A certain matter of luck is also involved -- good luck, or bad luck. But you're right, a supportive community, as well.
Ron Rosen August 24, 2011 at 04:00 AM
Thanks, Karin. Too bad people didn't know about the closing so at least they could have given the plants away, or even sold them for a little cash.
Natalie August 24, 2011 at 04:13 AM
It breaks my heart to see those dead plants. I get the Pasadena Star-News every day, yet there was no coverage of the closure. I'm so glad you've drawn attention to this sad story, and all the other casualties of recession - oops, not allowed to use that word. "Downturn in the economy" then.
Charles D August 25, 2011 at 05:33 AM
It's the Pasadena Altadena MountainViews-Observer. You improperly referred to it as "Mountain View Observer".
Gabhlan August 25, 2011 at 07:30 AM
A darned shame. Gary was born for this and now Persson's is gone.. He does have a plot of land up the fwy for his landscape biz. I hope that is still there and nothing else bad has happened to these fine people.. Keep your eyes on this lot, this could be the beginning of something unwanted...
Dan Abendschein (Editor) August 25, 2011 at 04:29 PM
@Charles - I contacted Dean Lee and asked him for the correct reference, and he said the Mountain Views News, though I did not that the physical paper does have the name on the masthead that you listed here. However, I'm going with the editor, and have switched the name in the article to that. I appreciate you pointing out that the way we listed it was incorrect though.
John Stephens August 25, 2011 at 05:42 PM
That's quite odd. I have a couple back issues of the MVN here on my desk and sure enough, the Pasadena/Altadena section still calls itself the "Observer." The name of the paper, however, is definitely the Mountains Views News. It was formerly the Mt. Wilson Observer and perhaps one other similar incarnation in between. But a lawsuit between one of the paper's former owners and it's current owner forced the most recent name change. In fact, I seem to remember the ruling requiring that the word "Observer" be removed from the paper's name entirely. But now I'm splitting hairs :)
Bill Finch August 25, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Many here in Sierra Madre refer to the paper as the Looney Views News. Mostly because of the publisher's tendency to represent her own idiosyncratic agenda as the word of God.
La Canada Resident August 26, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Ah..that is hilarious.
La Canada Resident August 26, 2011 at 05:09 PM
@ Charles Pasadena Altadena Mountain Views Observer is how it's listed. Hope you're not crying because you were improperly corrected by the editor of this oh such wonderful uh.... :-)
Vikki Orlando August 29, 2011 at 08:04 PM
I didn't know they had closed. I hve bought quite a few plants and roses in the past. Too bad they didn't have a closing sale. Sorry to see them go.
Jeff September 12, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Nobody Mentioned SCE Raising The Rent Over 4 Times, The Pre Eviction For Profit Scandle. Then Refused To Give A Decent Lease Length.To Grow Or Manage Plants, A Minumum Of 5 Years Is Need A 20 Would Have Been Great, SCE Gave 1 Year And Then Threw As Many Hazzards As They Could In, With That They Tried To Dispose Of The Perrsons, They Fought Back And Won. So SCE Got Revenge By Raising The Rent Out Proportion, Refusing To Give Any Resonable Length Of Lease And Restricting What They Could Keep On The Property Big Money Will Always Win Because The Hold The Cards. God Bless Walt And Vi Persson. P.S. Walt Passed Away This August. He Will Be Sorely Missed Fine People Like Him Are Few And Far Between
Vikki Orlando September 12, 2011 at 10:22 PM
So SCE was behind this...........that's terrible and not surprising. Storage facilities??? Nice view for residents on Sierra Madre Blvd.

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