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Saxton's Nears Closing of 84-Year-Old Family Business

The garden center, in Downtown Plymouth for almost 80 years, will shut its doors Oct. 31.

Saxton's Garden Center triggers memories of decades-old images with its old-fashioned storefront sign. The faint smell of motor oil is discernable inside, among the neat rows of lawnmowers and snow blowers.

A Michigan business since 1928 and in Plymouth since before 1937, Saxton's will close Oct. 31.

Alan Saxton, an owner, said they decided in September to close the store. 

"Money," he said about the reason for closing. "We had a bad winter in terms of sales. And we had a hot and dry summer."

Saxton said he didn't want to close, but those conditions left the store with little income.

After his father, , Saxton said his mother, Valerie, thought closing the store would be an option. His mother and brother Craig are also owners of the store, he said.

Saxton’s Farm Supply

"I've worked here on and off since I was about 5 years old," said Saxton, who is 64. 

He said his grandfather, Dean Saxton, opened the first store, which sold feed to farmers, in Redford in September, 1928. Saxton's moved to Northville and then Plymouth, near the Mayflower Meeting House.

Saxton said the company moved to the current location when they outgrew the first Plymouth location. His grandfather purchased the building in about 1937 from owners who lost the building during the Depression, Saxton said, and called it Saxton's Farm Supply. 

A brick wall inside Saxton’s separates the left and ride sides of the store. 

"Everything east of the brick wall was the original," Saxton said.

More than feed 

Saxton said his grandfather sold Massey-Harris farm tractors in the new location. The store took another turn in the late '40s when they built the addition.

He said his father persuaded his grandfather to change from farm to lawn mowing supplies.

"They were growing more homes around here than growing corn," Saxton said. 

Although he lives in Ypsilanti now, Saxton said his family and his grandparents lived above the store for about 25 years. 

Closing and customers

"We've had about eight people who would like to buy the property," Saxton said.

He said they've had offers from restaurant owners, investors, retailers and a microbrewery that is interested in leasing.

"If we could sell the building, we'd like to do so," he said.

Before the closing announcement, Saxton said they were making $1,000 to $3,000 per day. After the announcement, he said it jumped to about $3,500 to $5,000 per day. 

Ferris Mills, 75, of Plymouth, was in Saxton’s to replace his weed wacker line. 

“I was born and raised here, so I hate to see it go,” he said.

Dale Behler September 21, 2012 at 02:25 PM
My dad, Harold Behler, worked for Dean Saxton at the "feed store" for a short time back in1947-48 when the primary merchandise was farm supplies such as Larro Feeds, seeds and even fresh horse meat for dog food. I remember riding my bike from our home on Irving St. to the store to see my dad on hot summer days and drinking an ice cold Nesbitts Orange pop out of their cooler. The Saxtons were terrific people and I was fortunate to know both Dean and Bill. I remember when there was a meeting hall upstairs above the store and in the 1940s as a kid I attended what was call then a "feather party". Thay were bingo parties held around Thanksgiving and Christmas where the prizes were live chickens and turkeys for the holidays. I won a live chicken once. I'm a member of the Plymouth Optimist Club of which Bill Saxton, who passed on earlier this year, was a charter member dating back to 1948. The Saxtons have graciously allowed our club to use their parking lot for several years to raise funds for our club's charity programs by parking cars for Friday night Concerts in the Park, the Chili Cookoff and the Fall Festival. An important part of Plymouth history will be gone when Saxton's Garden Center closes its doors the end of October. Thank you Saxton family for all you have done for our community for many, many years.
Aysha Jamali September 22, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Those are some wonderful memories! Alan Saxton told me that the building's second floor used to be a kind of dance studio for the community's parties. But I did not know there were live chicken prizes! We're trying to round up old photos of the place. Do you have any you can share?
Pat Kohanowski February 20, 2013 at 06:32 AM
Hello Alan - Pat Kohanowski here - it was a wonderful business relationship that also grew into a friendship - I very much enjoyed calling on your store for Simplicity Outdoor Power Equipment - in all the years you represented our line you sold alot of tractors and ZT's. The down home feel of your dealership and your love of the business - I very much appreciate that. If you get this note please drop me a line - thx. My email is Kohanowski.Patrick@basco.com. All the best !!!!!

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