Mary Alice Cole, 66, sat in a pink rocking chair on Tuesday afternoon when a couple, two longtime patrons of Sam’s Farm, which is closing this Sunday, Sept. 28, walked up and said their goodbyes. “Where am I going to see you?” one of the customer’s asked. “We’ll see each other. You know how we run into each other,” Mary Alice replied.
Cole – who has owned and operated Sam’s Farm since she and her husband, Robert Cole, opened it in 1976 – had a few exchanges like that while speaking to the News-Press about serving Falls Church over the past 38 years.
“We’ve enjoyed being here. We’ve made a lot of nice friends and relationships with people, which will be hard to end at this point,” Cole said. “But I think we’ve served their needs for their flowers and their produce.”
Many in the Falls Church City community expressed their disappointment when news broke in mid-August about the closing of the garden shop, which sits on the corner of Leesburg Pike and Chestnut Street.
“So sorry about this, just a matter of time I guess. Sam’s has been my go-to garden supply store for 30 years. I will surely miss this little bit of country in Falls Church,” said Ann Bartlett Korzeniewski in a comment on a News-Press Facebook post about the announcement. But Mary Alice said, although it will be hard to let go, the timing is good.
“Over the past few years there’s been less business. Some of our old customers have moved on and they don’t do what they used to do and the new customers aren’t shopping like our old customers used to. It’s been harder for the last seven or eight years to do what we’ve been doing and do it profitably. So it’s a good time to quit.”
Robert Cole, who passed away in 2010, and Mary Alice Cole named Sam’s Farm after Robert’s father. They also named one of their three sons after Robert’s father. All three of Robert and Mary Alice’s sons, Robert, 31, Sam, 29, and Jack, 27, helped out – and grew up – on the farm.
“I’ve been working here since I was six so it’s like a second family, all the people who worked here and all the customers who came here and were a part of our lives,” said Jack Cole. “It’s definitely going to be a big change. This was nice little oasis in the middle of Route 7. I learned a lot here. It got me into planting and growing vegetables and stuff.”
Jack said that he’ll always remember Fourth of July celebrations at the farm. He said they had a tradition of roasting a pig every year. Mary Alice remembered how her sons used to help out around the farm – helping unload produce and plants from trucks and helping customers carry pumpkins to their cars in the fall. She said closing the shop is bittersweet.
“I’m ready to retire and then at the same time I’m going to miss the social aspect of having people coming in everyday, talking with them and hearing their stories,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to finding something new to do. So I’m excited about it.”
Jack, who still regularly works at the shop, said the experience of having to close the shop has been unreal.
“It hasn’t start to really hit until this past week or two to see it so empty and start saying goodbye to people. It’s definitely going to be something I miss,” Jack said. “But everything changes and I’ll move on to another adventure.”