There is a story behind every family business and if you have driven down Highway 15 towards Smiths Falls you have gone by Gemmils. When I moved to Carleton Place in 1981 there were very few locations and I remember each year taking the seasonal trek on Highway 15.
I came across these photos by accident, and knew if I had no clue about the history behind the greenhouse there might be others that did not either. Did you know that over 85 years ago, Donald Gemmell, Rob’s grandfather, first began selling flowers, fruits and vegetables, in Smiths Falls, at the same location where their flagship store is now located? Donald began with a small roadside stand, and he also built a honey house. He sold his cut gladiolus, raspberries, strawberries and honey and history began with that first sale.
Soon Donald became well known in the community for excellent quality plants and his passion for growing, particularly his beloved pansies. In 1932, they built new glass greenhouses next to the family home at 52 Church St. W. in Smiths Falls, .
Donald, along with his wife Lillian and his sister Eva Beach, worked together to bring beautiful plants to the local community. Soon after a new generation of Gemmell’s, and Ron, Ralph and Carlisle, were born.
The business grew again in 1967 with a move back out of town to its original location on Highway 15, where several greenhouses were constructed. Donald and his three sons operated Gemmell’s Sunnydale Gardens where Ralph Gemmell was the primary grower.
Ralph and his wife Liz worked tirelessly at the family business as their young sons, Robert and David, grew up running through the greenhouses. They loved to work alongside Grandpa Gemmell, growing snapdragons were a particular favourite. Rob was smitten with the bug to grow from the beginning, while David’s interests always lay in the mechanics.
Mr. Gemmell worked with the plants in the greenhouses right up until his passing in 1979. This event became a major turning point in the family business and in 1982 the business was split into Gemmell’s Flowers, owned and operated by Ron & Janice Gemmell, and Gemmell’s Garden Centre, owned and operated by Ralph & Liz Gemmell.
In 1987, Rob became an active partner in the business with Liz and together, with their hard working team, they continue to bring the tradition of locally grown top quality plants to the surrounding areas. Rob is the third generation of this horticultural family to operate the greenhouses and along with his mother Liz, they grow some of the most beautiful plants in Eastern Ontario.
Now you know the rest of the story– or do you? 🙂
Clipped from The Ottawa Journal, 22 Aug 1979, Wed, Page 48
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)