Faddegon’s has deep roots but changes with times

Spring is bursting to life at Faddegon's. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)Spring is bursting to life at Faddegon's. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

Gazette Reporter

LATHAM — Jack Faddegon’s office is an architect’s immaculate study, but it’s also a sort of time machine.

In a peaceful back corner of Faddegon’s Nursery on Troy-Schenectady Road, a drafting table and a tall stool, framed by labeled shelves of gardening books and plaques from various community awards, sit adjacent to a rustic wooden clock. Its pendulum ticks amid an intimate gallery of framed black and white.

A page from the Jan. 28, 1956, edition of The Schenectady Gazette features photos of Faddegon’s father, John, demonstrating the process of grafting blue spruce trees.

“It was sort of a status symbol back then,” Faddegon said. Two blue spruce trees framing the doorway, a neat hedge, and a Cadillac in the driveway meant you had arrived.

Those home-cultivated blue spruce, which can’t be grown from seed and have to be delicately grafted, were the backbone of the business Cornelius Johanas Faddegon founded after emigrating from Holland in 1920.

Jack Faddegon stands near his favorite place on his family's 40-acre plot: a pond he and his father planned and built. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

Jack Faddegon stands near his favorite place on his family’s 40-acre plot: a pond he and his father planned and built. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

Hometown business

Photographs, in the office and the hallway outside it, look back on the two generations before Jack Faddegon, hard at work on the same land he lives and works on now. His son, Matt, the oldest of three children, rounds out a fourth generation.

But looking out the window of the office, there’s no hint of nostalgia.

Brilliant baskets of hanging plants and rows of blossoming young peach trees in potted rows contrast with the faded hues in the office, calling out to customers who have to choose between Faddegon’s and plentiful other garden suppliers, including a Hewitt’s right across the street.

“We don’t try to compete with the big box stores,” Faddegon said. “We can’t and don’t really want to.”

That’s because at its core, Faddegon’s is a hometown business. Many of the employees have been on staff for 10 or 20 years, and their kids have grown up around the landscaping materials and greenhouses.

Jack Faddegon and his wife, Nancy, also work on community service projects whenever they can. Though Faddegon’s is in the town of Colonie, it’s also part of the Niskayuna school district.

Faddegon and his three children — Matt, Tom and Molly — are all graduates and, in 2012, he was named to the Niskayuna Alumni Hall of Fame for his local and international philanthropy, including a Rotary project called Shelterbox that provides necessities to refugees around the world.

“That’s something that we really believe in,” Faddegon said.

Jack Faddegon's home, which sits behind the family business. Faddegon believes the home dates back to the late 1700's or early 1800's, based on building materials he's found while improving it. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

Jack Faddegon’s home, which sits behind the family business. Faddegon believes the home dates back to the late 1700’s or early 1800’s, based on building materials he’s found while improving it. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

Shifting as needed

But while the family business hangs on to its small-town values, it has had to shift away from the things that formed its identity in the past, including the old blue spruce trees.

“We grow almost none of our stock. It’s all brought in,” he said.

“You’ve got to change. That’s key to success or failure of small business,” Faddegon added. “You can make changes fairly quickly and see the results of those changes, good or bad.”

Those changes are visible all around the 40-acre property, just a sliver of which is open to the public.

Just steps from his office, Faddegon peels back a plastic curtain from the entrance to an empty, wood-framed structure.

“This is one of the original greenhouses,” he said.

It’s made from redwood, which has stood tough over the years and never rotted. Soon, the greenhouse will be set up for gardening classes and lectures for the community.

Though he’s proud of them, the greenhouses, nursery and other retail-oriented parts of the business are presided over by Faddegon’s business partner and brother-in-law, Bob Graves. Faddegon’s real passion is for landscape architecture, a part of the business that has also seen plenty of changes over time.

“We do a lot of graphics work now,” Faddegon said. “I can actually even create a threedimensional design.”

Sometimes, he even applies the new technology to landscapes that were originally constructed decades ago. Over time, they become overgrown and need Faddegon’s expert eye, and the help of one of eight landscaping crews, to pare them back.

“It’s fun to see a job mature,” he said. “You find yourself redoing things you did 40 years ago.”

Faddegon adores the expanse of land, on which stand his late-1700s brick home, his brother Jim’s home, and a beloved pond for swimming and fishing that he and his father constructed.

Eventually, though, he envisions the business growing too close to his personal life.

The family recently adopted miniature horses for patrons to visit, which brings the public closer to his home. Someday, he might add nature trails or other attractions even farther back into the property.

At that point, he’d probably move somewhere a bit more removed from his work.

“You’ve got to change,” he said again.

Photos by Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter