Martin Viette Nurseries, an upscale gardening icon on the North Shore, closed on Friday after 87 years in business.
Disappointed longtime customers were still pulling up to the Muttontown garden center after the doors were locked about 1 p.m.
“I’m heartbroken,” said Lynn Falkove of East Norwich, who has been patronizing the nursery for 40 years. “You can go to other places and get plants. I know if I buy something here, it’s perfect, and they stand by everything they sell.”
Operations manager Jack Passauer said a commercial landscaping company bought the business and its inventory on Tuesday — but not the 42-acre plot on which it is located. He said the company, the name of which he said the owners do not want to disclose at this time, plans to reopen the business as a garden center in the spring.
The Martin Viette owners, who Passauer said are brothers Michael and Russell Ireland, could not be reached for comment.
A history of the business on the gardening center’s website says Swiss immigrant Martin Viette opened the nursery on two acres in Syosset in 1929, later moving it to its current location. The father of Michael and Russell Ireland, Russell H. Ireland Jr., bought it in 1976.
Customer Jeff Mallin said Martin Viette was more expensive than other nurseries. But the quality of the products, the level of service and the knowledge of the staff were unsurpassed, he said.
“If I had a problem with soil, they would test the pH for me,” said Mallin, 60, of nearby Old Brookville. “If I brought in a distressed leaf from my tree, they’d tell me what was wrong.”
Passauer said the business had financial problems in recent years. That doesn’t surprise Mallin, who said some former customers he knows had started shopping at cheaper chain stores.
Mallin hopes whoever buys the land will maintain the bucolic feel of the area. He is worried a developer will buy the 42 acres — currently mostly open space — and build a large number of houses.
“It depends on how you develop it,” Mallin said. “If you put 10 homes on 40 acres, that would keep the character. If they put in high-density, it would be terrible.”
Muttontown Mayor Julianne Beckerman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday.