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SURREY NOW & THEN: 60 years of growing nursery business for Hui family

Tom Zillich's Surrey Now & Then series takes a look back at Surrey-area landmark sites, events and people

Brothers Tony and Bob Hui fondly recall playing in and around the house that still stands behind the nursery and flower shop they now operate.

When their parents, Park and Winnie, opened 99 Nursery in 1964, virtually nothing else existed in that area of King George Highway, as the boulevard was then known.

"The creek here, it was safe back then and we'd play down there, every day, all summer, fishing and playing," Bob said.

"It looks a lot different now, of course."

Today at 99 Nursery, Bob manages the garden centre and Tony runs the flower shop, further growing a family business that celebrated 60 years during an anniversary dinner June 8 at Neptune Palace, a restaurant located a few blocks north of the nursery.

"We had close to 300 people there, a lot of our suppliers and industry friends, everybody who has helped us grow over the past 60 years, you know," Bob reported. 

In the early-1960s, Park (formally Lin C. Hui) and Winnie (Wai Kam Hui) worked as farmers in Cloverdale before opening a produce stand on King George, or Highway 99A, hence the business name. Initially the couple was known for growing and selling Chinese-style vegetables, but 99 Nursery has evolved significantly over the years to sell pretty much everything related to plants and flowers.

"Our older brother and sister (Steven and Ellen) got into other careers, and we were the ones left behind to run the business," Tony joked as Bob laughed. 

"Now we've got my son working here, a third generation over the last couple of years, along with Tony's teen daughter," Bob added.

Park died 10 years ago, and Winnie now lives in a care home but was able to attend the recent anniversary dinner for the nursery she helped launch.

Some of the old greenhouses and buildings are gone or remodelled.

"We were just young kids working here, bagging soil, doing everything," Tony recalled. "Even before school we were here working, in elementary school. We got our start here pretty early."

The brothers tell a funny story about the early days of selling flowers for Park and Winnie.

"Dad said that in the first year, on a weekend in May, he went to Burnaby Lake Greenhouses and bought some wholesale flowers, and they all sold here, every one of them," Tony said. "So my dad went back, then bought twice as many flowers. But the next week, barely anything sold. That's when he learned that the previous weekend was Mother's Day, and he didn't realize it. That was his introduction to Mother's Day, and that's a story Dad always told us."

Both Fraser Heights-area residents now, Bob and Tony credit a couple of other Surrey-area nurseries for going strong for several decades, including Hunters Garden Centre on 152 Street and Art Knapp, located several kilometres south on King George.

"This area has always been a great place for selling plants and flowers, and people in Surrey love to grow their own vegetables," Bob noted. "It's great that we're all still going."

Today, 99 Nursery does business on five acres of prime land. 

"Everybody wants this land," Bob revealed, "and every week we get people phoning and knocking on the door. We're looking at another property, about one acre, that would just be a flower shop, seasonal. I think we'll get another five or seven years here. When the magic number hits…. We're getting close, but it's not there yet."

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news for Surrey Now-Leader and Black Press Media
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