For Bill and Roelyn Poot, running Poot’s Cactus Nursery has been a true blessing. And it’s one they have shared with the entire family, as son Brian Poot is now an owner with them and many family members work at the Central Valley landmark business.
At 17229 E. Highway 120 in Ripon, Poot’s is a well-known and popular stop for those looking to pick up a few succulents, a unique cactus, some special soil (Bill’s own recipe) or even planning to do a complete yard makeover. With continued drought conditions impacting the region, many locals choose to landscape with decorative rock and water-thrifty plants such as cactus and succulents, and the staff at Poot’s is more than happy to help create just the right plan for your space.
“I’m the leader of the pack,” Roelyn said, smiling. “We are in our 27th year and we moved here to the property 35 years ago. We had one greenhouse, 30-by-20, that we built.”
Bill for many years worked in the ag industry transporting produce and Roelyn said it was a trip to Turlock to pick up tomatoes some 46 years ago that touched off the idea that has grown into a unique family business.
At the stop, Bill was treated to a tour of some greenhouses on the property before getting the tomatoes loaded for transport to cold storage.
“That got his wheels turning,” Roelyn said, since the cactus and succulents he observed were plants that didn’t need a lot of water or a lot of care. “Next thing I knew there was a greenhouse built.”
While still driving the produce route, Bill would get cuttings from various plants that he would bring home and add to the expanding garden area.
Originally starting their married life in Patterson, they moved to the Escalon area and then relocated to Ripon, where they established the business along the highway.
“At first it was just Bill and I,” explained Roelyn, adding that they began to add staff the larger the operation grew. “This business was such a very unique niche for so many years.”
Son Brian now is an owner, their daughter Brenda does the payroll and bookkeeping, a granddaughter handles the social media and designs shirts for sale in the gift shop, a grandson’s wife has been on staff for over two years … and that’s just a sample of those involved in keeping the business running at full steam.
Along with son Brian, their son Billy – who manages the Napa store in Salida – is their “go-to” for anything electronic and son-in-law Ted is in construction, building the small gift shop on the premises. Brian takes care of the inventory and deals with the wholesalers.
Billy and wife Hannah’s daughter, Alli, 11, has her sights set on joining the family business as well.
“She’s a sales person,” Roelyn explained. “She’s going to take my place someday.”
Now covering nearly an acre, there is a wide selection of both cactus and succulents, Bill’s unique blend of soil, T-shirts, mugs, tote bags, even specially designed planters in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit all yards.
The business is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We are believers,” Roelyn said of the family, which attends First Christian Reformed Church in Ripon.
Their faith is the reason they chose to close the business on Sundays, even though it likely would be their busiest day of the week. They are very involved with their church family and take that day to dedicate solely to the church.
As Roelyn indicates, the family is grateful to fill a niche, not only in the Central Valley, but beyond.
“Some people drive two, three hours to come here,” she said.
The picturesque property, which also includes a koi pond with fountain and water features, has been utilized for many photo shoots. They have special tours of the greenhouses, including a private collection of plants, that can be booked in advance and are offered periodically throughout the year. More information about the tours, and sign-ups, can be done online by visiting the website at pootscactusnursery.com.
The site provides a wealth of information about the various succulents and cactus available. Poot’s can also be reached by calling 209-599-7241.
Ironically, said Roelyn, when much of the world was shutting down amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, their business saw a resurgence.
“The last seven years,” she said of growing exponentially, “not only because of the drought but also COVID. With COVID, people spent more time at home, got into their yards.”
Many chose to make changes, opting to become water thrifty, and knew that Poot’s was the place to go to help implement those changes successfully.
“We were so busy, we are just very grateful for the opportunity,” Roelyn said.
Everyone in the business has their area of expertise and Roelyn said it all comes together, with the entire family/staff there to support and encourage each other and provide the best service and products they can for their customers.
They are always getting in different varieties of succulents and cactus and Roelyn said they can offer advice as to what would work best for each individual yard, depending on how it is situated and when and where it gets the most sun.
“I just enjoy the people and helping them,” she said. “We can teach them the right way to care for the plants; succulents prefer morning sun in this hot valley while cactus can endure the hot sun.”
She also said their soil is “very famous” and people will drive a few hours just to get a supply of Bill’s unique soil blend.
“It’s award-winning soil,” Roelyn said proudly.
Bill, though the original driving force behind the business, lets Roelyn take the public relations lead. There is even a shirt in his honor in the gift shop, with a cartoon-style drawing of Bill on it declaring that he is as “cuddly as a cactus.”
Along with the six day a week operation, the photo shoots and scheduled tours, Poot’s has also hosted some special vendor faires, including a holiday-themed event and a late spring gathering.
Bill and Roelyn have been married for 53 years, approaching their 54th anniversary in June. Opening their business in 1994, Roelyn said she can’t imagine doing anything else. They live on the property, their sign is visible as you travel the highway between Escalon and Ripon and they welcome shoppers from near and far.
“This was my husband’s vision, just a little spot on the highway,” Roelyn summarized, with the humble beginning in one greenhouse growing in to a family-centered thriving business. “We are blessed.”