Tom’s Garden Center has undergone a changing of the guard.
The longtime Albany nursery has entered a new era under new ownership, according to Tom Krupicka, who owned the center for 26 years. He turned over the reins to Travis Kerns, one of his employees, in December.
“It needed to move to the next level,” Krupicka said. “Travis has the energy and the computer experience to do what needs to be done.”
Krupicka said selling wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do. He and his wife, Annette, had been working at the store since 1989 when they bought Vollstedt’s Green Thumb on Pacific Boulevard. He moved it to its North Albany location at 350 Hickory St. N.W. in 2005.
“Annette and I knew we were getting tired,” said Krupicka, 50. “I’ve been working in the industry since I was 14.”
Kerns took over the operation just before Christmas.
“We don’t plan many changes,” said Kerns, 33, a South Albany graduate. “We’re planning to arrange things a little different and make use of electronic communication, but we’ll keep the same product lines and hope to offer the same energy and customer service.”
Krupicka said he won’t completely step away from the business he has been involved with his entire life. He will be on call to answer questions and provide consultation if needed.
“I’m just an email away,” Krupicka said. “I’ll help out. We still have a vested interest in all of this.”
Kerns said he plans to add a few more community-centered events and perhaps host specific group activities but isn’t about to change a lot of what has worked.
“Tom and Annette will always be welcome here and we expect to see him around,” Kerns said.
Krupicka and his wife have already moved from Albany and are living in Tillamook. He said he plans to take a little time off and then look into starting a fishing and crabbing guide business on the coast.
“I’ve always wanted to do that. And I want to gear it around families and kids,” Krupicka said.
Kerns said his entire family will be helping out at the business and he hopes to keep it that way for a long time. His parents, Mike and Sherry Kerns, sister Meghan and brother Kyle are all expected to be involved. All of the employees have remained as well.
“I have three boys who I think will eventually be here too,” Kerns said.
Krupicka said he would certainly miss working in the Albany community. Active in the chamber and other organizations, Krupicka has been a visible part of Albany for many years.
“I’m surely going to miss this city,” he said. “The people here have been fantastic and have always supported me. We won’t be strangers.”
Kerns said he has many of the same business views and goals as Krupicka.
“He’s been a great mentor,” Kerns said.
Krupicka thinks the store is in good hands.
“I told Travis that this will be the most intense and hardest thing he will ever do. But it’s also the most rewarding,” Krupicka said. “It was for me.”