There's a new welcome mat at the south entrance to Main Street, Oak Creek.
A path made of bricks salvaged from the old VFW chimney and lined with log posts, hanging flower baskets and chili ristras takes visitors off the street and into a once-vacant lot across from the pocket park and Sinclair gas station. It leads into an oasis of flowers, trees and a cozy little greenhouse called Oso Rio Nursery and Trading Post. You can't miss it as you pass through town.
Oso Rio Nursery and Trading Post owner Annie Kayhoe built her new outdoor shop to have street-side appeal -- a place people might just want to stop to check out on their way through Oak Creek, she said. The new nursery is a labor of love that stemmed from Kayhoe's passion for gardening and is an outlet for her artistic flair.
"Garden is just such a good word. It's like ice cream or starlight," Kayhoe said. "People like what they do in their gardens, and they like what their gardens do inside them."
Last summer, Kayhoe grew too many flowers for herself, so she set up a small flower stand in downtown Oak Creek to try to sell some of them. She said the flowers were such a hit that she decided to open Rio Oso Nursery and Trading Post this year. Kayhoe's full-fledged nursery and greenhouse, complete with garden art and architectural accents, opened Saturday.
Kayhoe will be selling 500 of her own seedlings and 60 bare root roses, in addition to annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and climbing roses from other Rocky Mountain nurseries.
"I'm very careful to only buy what is hardy here," Kayhoe said.
There has been a buzz about town in anticipation of Kayhoe's new roadside shop. It seems everyone in town has been keeping an eye on her progress. Whether it was at the Town Board meeting or over dinner at Chelsea's, people have been singing praises.
"The local support has been phenomenal," Kayhoe said. She said there have been at least 10 to 15 people stopping by each day to chat, check out the place and offer assistance since she started construction April 1. She was busy with trading post action before she even opened.
Friday morning, Janine Pierce, owner of Brand Spankin' Used thrift shop in Oak Creek, stopped by the nursery to offer Kayhoe a hug and her seal of approval. Pierce was in search of Kayhoe's candles. The handmade candles are from New Mexico and evoke sage, cedar, juniper, sweet grass and pinion.
"This looks so great. You worked so hard," Pierce said to Kayhoe. "It's a great welcome to town.
A few minutes later, Jack and Janie Romick pulled up in their truck to deliver an empty twig basket and check out the flowers on display.
"It's a great addition to our town, and no one works any harder than Annie. She's going to be very successful," Janie said as she looked appreciatively over the outdoor shop. Kayhoe is equally appreciative of the Romicks. She said she couldn't have done it without them.
"When I'm having a meltdown, I go to Jack and Janie's," Kayhoe said.
Kayhoe has been working from dawn to dusk to get Oso Rio Nursery and Trading Post up and running. She was on site at 5:30 a.m. Friday morning to check her plants after their first night in the elements.
"I was so worried about everybody," Kayhoe said of her flowers. "It's like having thousands of foster children," she said.
And she's not just offering flowers and trees this summer. Kayhoe's colorful, hand-painted furniture is for sale, doubling as decorative floral display space for the nursery. Her hanging baskets dangle from handmade hooks made by Oak Creek iron artist Brett Lindstrom, which also will be for sale. And hand-carved, spiral architectural posts made by Kayhoe's friend in New Mexico are available for purchase.
In her spare time, Kayhoe, an avid antler hunter, plans to work on her elaborate pine and elk antler arbors. She will construct them on site at the nursery.
"I'm not much of a shop keep. I can't just water flowers and hang around all day," Kayhoe said. "It'll keep me busy."
Kayhoe said she is hoping to bring in local artists to sell their wares on the weekends, and she is looking for anyone who might be interested in participating.
Adding to the festive garden atmosphere, Oak Creek resident Beth Fisher, also known as "Beth the Chef," is bringing her business south this summer and setting up shop next to Kayhoe. Look for a small "casita" to emerge sometime in mid-June, where Fisher will be grilling up "Southwestern street food." Although her menu is in the formative stages, Fisher said people can look forward to fajita wraps, burritos and maybe even tamales one night per week. Everything will be homemade in her kitchen and grilled to order, Fisher said.
"I was looking for something new and fun to do," Fisher said of her new venture. She will continue to operate her catering business, but most of that business is in Steamboat, she said. This is a chance to help revive downtown Oak Creek and diversify her business, she said. Fisher plans to use her existing Oak Creek staff, expanding their local opportunities for employment.
On the other side of Kayhoe's nursery, there also will be a farmers market selling fresh produce again this summer. Property owner David Epstein is coordinating with vendors, Kayhoe said.
As part of Oak Creek's expanding beautification efforts, Kayhoe has been contracted by the town of Oak Creek to install 24 new flowering barrels along Main Street. She will plant the barrels, fertilize, deliver and pick them up. Oak Creek business owners have agreed to take care of the watering.
When the leaves start to turn, the Rio Oso Nursery and Trading Post will have pumpkins, corn and bulbs for fall planting. Kayhoe even plans to sell handmade scarecrows in the fall and Christmas trees come December. Next year, she plans to branch out with seeds and vegetable and herb plants.
The whole idea was to create a pleasant, comfortable environment -- someplace where she and her customers would be happy to spend their time, Kayhoe said.
"It should be a pretty festive little corner this summer, she said.