2008-03-13 / Front Page

It's no secret: there's a new gardener in town

By Sam Bari

The sisters that are saying good-bye to the Secret Garden, with the shop's new owner, are, from left, Holly Howard, David Urban, Heidi Lessard and Helenna Fountain. The sisters that are saying good-bye to the Secret Garden, with the shop's new owner, are, from left, Holly Howard, David Urban, Heidi Lessard and Helenna Fountain. David Urban, 24, the new proprietor of the Secret Garden at 12 Southwest Ave., has been training for the job since his sophomore year in high school. It was then that Ferris Farms in Somerset, N. J. hired him to work in their greenhouse.

Urban, originally from Hillsborough, N.J., has since earned

degree in horticulture, with a minor in business, from the University of Rhode Island, where he graduated in 2006. Along with ten years of experience working in every phase of the florist industry, he has the perfect combination to manage his own store.

"My love of plants and flowers actually started when I was quite young. I helped my Italian grandfather and grandmother on my mother's side plant and tend their garden. Raising tomatoes and other vegetables is in their blood. So I guess I came by my love for things that grow quite honestly," he said.

Since moving to Rhode Island to attend URI, he has worked parttime as a student at Broadview Florist in Wakefield where he was primarily a floral designer. Urban considers the owners, Mark and Sherry Koswaski, to be his extended family and still gives them a hand when they need it.

During summers since 1999, Urban worked for Gray's Florist in Watchung, N. J., a family-owned, fourth generation florist. "I'm used to working for a fast-paced, high volume florist with three stores," Urban said.

"Having a business in a small town is new to me. But I love it. The people in Jamestown are so friendly and have been very kind. I don't plan on changing a thing, including the name. The beauty of the area and the opportunity to do something different is a welcome change.

"Heidi, Helenna, and Holly Fountain, the former owners, have been most helpful in making a smooth transition. It was virtually a turn-key operation. I just have to get used to the computerized system. It's a bit different from handwriting every order and having to keep track of everything," Urban said.

He also said that he put a fountain in the middle of the store as "a tribute to the Fountain sisters, who ran the successful business for so many years."

He expressed his gratitude to his mother and father, James and Sarina Urban, for helping him with the financing and business planning.

Besides working 70 hours a week during the summers and managing a part-time job throughout the school year, Urban took a little time out for fun. He met his girlfriend, Amy Bucci, when they attended URI together. They managed to go on a couple of jaunts to Italy and Greece during spring breaks. He has always been a runner, jogging a few miles every morning. His roommate recently introduced him to golf. He says that he gets lots of exercise playing golf because he has to hit the ball so many times.

When he was in high school, Urban saved his money and went to Italy, Paris and Switzerland with school groups. "I definitely love to travel," Urban said. "But right now, I'm concentrating on making this business as successful as possible. If this goes well, I'll consider buying another store. I'm used to being involved in a business that's 50 times bigger."

Urban said that the store will have an official grand opening some time in April. He also said that the hours will stay the same, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

Urban lives in Wakefield, where he thinks he will stay for another year. "Then I'll be looking to rent a house in Jamestown," he said. "So if anybody has anything affordable, keep me in mind because I'll be looking."

Besides his parents in New Jersey, Urban has a brother Ryan, 22, who is graduating from Johnson and Wales University in Providence this spring.

If success is measured by high energy, self-motivation and tenacity, David Urban and the Secret Garden will continue to do very well.

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