2007-09-20 / News

The Secret Garden women are ready for family time

By Michaela Kennedy

The sisters that are saying good-bye to the Secret Garden, with their mother, are, from left, Holly Howard, Mildred "Millie" Fountain, Heidi Lessard and Helenna Fountain. Photo by Megan Lessard The sisters that are saying good-bye to the Secret Garden, with their mother, are, from left, Holly Howard, Mildred "Millie" Fountain, Heidi Lessard and Helenna Fountain. Photo by Megan Lessard Heidi Lessard, Holly Howard, and Helenna Fountain are three sisters who built a color-infused empire together from a chat around the kitchen table ten years ago. Since then, the Fountain sisters have established a well-visited business on the island, The Secret Garden.

The sisters joined up to form a well-balanced trio. Holly orchestrated greenhouses at her farm in Exeter, Helenna brought in professional florist expertise, and Heidi provided the business brain of the operation. Their specialty store highlights seasonal plants, floral arrangements and creative designs for the garden and home.

"We accomplished what we wanted to do," Heidi says. They secured a vision, and then the flower business bloomed with their tender care.

Now, a handful of months have passed since their tenth-year anniversary, and their decision to sell the garden shop came to them in a similar setting - around the kitchen table. The agreement was not one they mulled over for long. They revisited their visions for the next decade, and laid their values out for review. Spending more time with family is their number one desire.

Helenna points to four pictures of newborns on the wall behind the counter. The babies came into the world between May and August, making the total number of grand-nieces and grand-nephews 12. They entertain as many as 42 immediate family members for the holidays every year. "When we are open seven days a week, everyone has to come here to celebrate," Helenna notes. Soon, they will have the freedom to travel to visit family.

Holly is not only closing The Secret Garden, but she has sold her Exeter farm of 25 years as well. Calling from the road delivering mums, Holly says, "The best thing is going around Jamestown, seeing my plants, seeing choices people make." The change in lifestyle has not registered with Holly yet, since she will continue to run the farm until the closing in November. She's looking forward to getting home regularly to make dinner for her husband and visit farmers' markets to see other people's products. "I'm going to Norway to see my grandson," she adds.

The women have enjoyed their work together, but they know when to move on. The big question, why, continues to come from their customers and friends. But Heidi and her sisters ask another question right back, when is a good time to leave a business, when things are still good, or when work becomes a struggle? Heidi reflects that 99 percent of the time the work is "tons of fun, but not at midnight on Mother's Day Eve," for example. "Like Seinfeld, it's time to go when you're still getting the laughs," Heidi says with a wide smile. "It's time. It's something you know."

The women recently took their mother, Mildred "Millie" Fountain to Boston to see a Red Sox game. Millie had not been to a game since the 1940s, and she was thrilled. She carried a sign her daughters made for her which read, "The last time I was here Ted Williams hit two home runs." That night, David Ortiz hit two more home runs. "These are the kind of fun things we want to do with our time now," Heidi says.

The three women say they have Jamestown to thank for their success. More than anything, they reflect on how much they will miss the residents of Jamestown. "They're just really nice people," Heidi notes.

Inquiries about taking over the business have already begun pouring in, with most of the interest coming from locals. "We trust that whoever takes over the business will experience as much support from Jamestown as we have," the three ladies said.

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