Hicks Nurseries celebrates 160 years

Hicks employee Susan Egan hands over a roasted Hicks employee Susan Egan hands over a roasted corn as Hicks Nurseries in Westbury celebrates its 160th year. (Sept.14, 2013) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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Cathy Franklin peered into a grainy black-and-white photo on display at Hicks Nurseries on Saturday, searching for her grandfather, Frank Zino.

"I think he was the first Italian foreman" at the nursery, said Franklin, of Amityville.

The decades-old picture showed five men standing stiffly against a wall, but Franklin couldn't be sure. "I can never pick him out," she said.

Touted as one of the oldest family-owned businesses on Long Island, the Westbury nursery is celebrating its 160th anniversary with a display of archival photos and documents, along with a slate of festivities this weekend.

On Saturday, Goodtime Charlie's Ragtime Band performed vintage songs such as "I Waited a Little Too Long" while customers snacked on free hot dogs. The nursery's famous roasted corn on the cob sold for a special price: 160 cents.

Rachel Bowen watched her twin 3-year-old sons cavort in front of the banjo-playing band.

"We just bought a house, so I'm going to start planting something for the first time in my life," said Bowen, of Glen Head.

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The festivities highlighted the nursery's long history and helped lure a new generation of customers, said a store manager, Sally Cirrisi. "Everybody loves food," she said.

Isaac Hicks established the nursery in 1853 when he sold trees and shrubs to neighbors. His son Edward expanded the company with inventions that enabled the nursery to move large trees for customers via barges and horse-drawn wagons. Over the decades, the nursery helped outfit many of the region's grandest estates.

One of the posters on display Saturday showed Hicks trees planted by the famed Olmsted Brothers landscape architects, whose father Frederick Law Olmsted designed Central and Prospect parks in New York City.

A glass case was filled with catalogs from the 1920s, along with the nursery's 1939 Garden Almanac.

Shawn Gordon of Rockville Centre said he came for "the exhibit and the corn."

"I knew they did all the big estates around here," he said of the nursery.

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