By MARG JACKSON
It’s known as California’s largest pond and water garden store and it’s tucked away in an unlikely place – across a railroad crossing along McHenry Avenue in Escalon.
The fact that Creative Water Gardens fronts on McHenry and you have to cross the railroad tracks to get to it allows for a very small sampling of fountains, garden art and water structures in front of the business. But step through the doors, go out the back and enjoy an acre full of lush greenery, the soothing sounds of cascading water and be transformed; all just a few steps away from a busy street.
“Life is stressful … creating beauty with water is relaxing,” said owner Deni Sullivan, now in her 21st year in the water garden business. “People that build their own ponds feel a great sense of pride. It can be a Zen place.”
Clientele comes from all over the state, with people from Redding to Fresno, the foothills to the Bay Area utilizing the staff’s expertise and advice on how to create a unique oasis on their property. The water used is all recirculated, a key point during drought periods.
“We do free one-on-one teaching, we also have one seminar a month,” Sullivan said of offering tips on both pond construction and fountain placement.
Seminar information can be found on the website at www.creativewatergardens.biz.
The staff of six has been together for years, working like a well-oiled machine and offering expertise in a number of areas, from putting the ponds together to diagnosing and treating illnesses in fish.
The business also sells koi for ponds and aquatic plants, in addition to a line of garden art, complete with a two-year weather proof guarantee.
“Everybody has been here at least 15 years so there is a lot of collective experience,” added Sullivan, noting with pride the attention to detail given to each customer as they work to create a special spot that they can enjoy for years to come.
“We maintain 15 ponds here,” she said of the expansive, bubbling area in back of the shop.
They also sell jewelry, wind chimes, and urns in addition to the fountains and pond materials.
Along with Sullivan, staff members include manager Jimmy Jones, Kimberly Sullivan Gray, Gonzalo Calderon, Diana Edwards and Jesus Calderon.
“We do pump repair, fountain repair in the field of our fountains,” Sullivan said. “We do free fish diagnosing and treatment.”
The benefits of creating a front or backyard oasis goes beyond the curb appeal and enhanced value to the property – it’s a value that is hard to gauge because of the mental and emotional benefits that hearing the soothing sounds of the water bubbling in your own fountain or pond can provide. Sullivan said they can take a client step by step through the process of creating a pond or, if they aren’t looking for that big of a project, can help them find the perfect fountain for the space available. They can even bring in a photo of their yard, with some measurements, and the staff can assist them with recommendations as to what will fit and look the best in the space they have.
“We want them to do it right the first time, we want them to be happy,” she said of walking clients through the creative process.
Above all else, Sullivan wants residents in the 209, and especially those in Escalon, to know that there is more to the shop than meets the eye.
“The whole front is railroad owned so we can’t make it look like the back,” she said. “We have an acre of ponds, over 100 fountains up and running. Come see, bring the grandparents, bring the kids.”
Areas are dedicated to various themes, from Polynesian and Tuscan to contemporary, so there is a style for everyone.
“I enjoy being outside, helping people create in their backyard,” said daughter Kimberly Sullivan Gray, who works part-time at the business. “It’s something they can create and enjoy, and not work too hard at it when it’s done.”
Ideally, agreed Sullivan, the hard part is putting in whatever water feature you choose, then the maintenance shouldn’t be overwhelming, allowing you more time to enjoy what you have created.