On a bright Friday morning, I pulled into the parking lot of Island View Nursery, past natural rock fountains, vibrant “Sticks on Fire” succulents and lush green foliage. I asked the friendly guy behind the outside counter—a structure that resembles a small temple—if the owner Nacho Mendez was available.
“Here he comes now,” he said, pointing to a man walking towards me. Nacho and I waved to each other and did the obligatory six feet apart greeting before he led me to a table near the tallest fiddle leaf fig tree I had ever seen.
In talking with Mendez, I learned that the key to his success was simple: work hard. “I moved here in 1991 from Mexico, and I started working, but not with what I wanted to do. Because when you come from another country and want a better lifestyle, you don’t focus on anything in particular. You do whatever you can to survive.”
Nacho worked at a restaurant, then at a landscaping business and several other jobs before he landed at Island View Nursery. At first, the nursery was like any other job, but soon Mendez realized he liked working with plants. He started with weeding, watering plants, repotting and planting and later moved to sales. Several years passed and then in 2013, Mendez’ boss decided to retire, and he took the opportunity to buy the nursery.
“I’m very grateful to the previous owner of Island View. He helped me to be who I am these days,” said Mendez. “When I first started working on sales with him, my English was poor, but he did not give up on me.” Mendez also credits his co-workers over the years—many of which he considers good friends. “The people who work with me today are very important to keep this adventure going.”
Working from the ground up was great training for Mendez. To his younger self he’d advise, “study what you’re getting into. Go to school or find a way to gain an education. And whatever you do, do it with all your heart.”
Working at the nursery Mendez received the education he needed to become a boss. He saw what worked and what didn’t, including the number of employees the previous owner kept on staff. “If your payroll is bigger than your income, you have to do something,” he said.
When Mendez took over the business, the first thing he did was cut the payroll by over half. He made sure the remaining employees were well-versed in numerous duties. Each staff member is knowledgeable on plants, can ring up customers, care for the plants and so on. Having employees who can pick up the slack when needed is essential to his model of running a successful business.
For Mendez, working hard at Island View Nursery is his passion. When he bought the nursery, he thought: “I love what I do, so I’m going to give it a try. What could happen? I can lose whatever I have, but I’ll start over again.”
Island View Nursery is located at 3376 Foothill Road.