Holland wasn’t big enough for the Roozen boys, so they left their tiny country in search of room to grow. For close to 50 years, Roozen’s Nursery, the business brothers Jos and Eric Roozen nurtured, helped beautify suburban yards until it closed recently.
“We started working for our father in the 1950s for 10 cents an hour,” Eric, 74, told me over the phone recently. “I was 10 years old. That was good money in those days.”
That was in a small town 20 miles northwest of Amsterdam called Egmond. Jos and his younger brother Eric came from a long line of bulb growers. Over the centuries, tulips have created fortunes for the Dutch, but when your father and his father and his father and his father are all bulb growers, it can be a bit of a problem. The Netherlands is famously deficient in something bulbs need land. For the Roozens, there simply wasn’t enough of it to pass on to everyone in the next generation.
So in 1971, Jos came to the United States. He worked first at Behnke’s in Beltsville, the famed garden center that closed in 2019.
Jos started to do a little bit of work on the side. “Then he called me and said, ‘You want to come over, and we’ll start a nursery,’ ” Eric said. Eric came to America in 1975, a year after Jos opened the garden center on Allentown Road in Fort Washington.
“At first, all we did was maintenance,” Eric said. “We had about 85 bank buildings Suburban Trust, First American, and we did those buildings, complete landscaping, and all the maintenance.”
Eventually, the retail side of their operation grew so big that they dropped the maintenance part. At its height, Roozen Nursery had four locations, including additional stores in Silver Spring, Annapolis, and Annandale. The stores buzzed with gardeners seeking color for their yards or advice for their lawns.
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