So many of our customers have been coming to Weidner’s for decades and love to share stories of times past. Our matriarch, Evelyn Weidner, is a highly respected and beloved fixture in the Southern California agricultural industry. She built Weidner’s Gardens with her late husband, Bob Weidner in the early 1970’s. As the business grew over the years Evelyn eventually hired Oliver Storm as her Head Grower and Kalim Owens as her General Wholesale Manager. When Evelyn was ready to retire from the day-to-day operations she looked to Oliver and Kalim to take control of the business. This month, we want to share a little bit with you about the two men who continue to support the legacy that her family has created here in Encinitas at Weidners Gardens.
Oliver Storm, Owner/Head Grower
Oliver came to Weidners Gardens in the early 1990’s with his girlfriend Angela on a student exchange program from Germany. They both lived in Evelyn’s house while working in horticulture here in Encinitas. Two years later, Evelyn offered Oliver the Head Grower/Production Manager position at Weidner’s Gardens. He continued in that position for nine years until he was offered another job opportunity on the east coast in Maryland. During his time in Maryland he came back to visit with Evelyn and Kalim often. Now married to Angela after a memorable Elvis-style wedding in Vegas, the newlyweds would return for Christmases and holidays to stay with Evelyn and her family. He would also come back to go fishing with Kalim who he had created a strong friendship with over the years. After seven years in Maryland – and realizing that there is no better place to live than right here in Encinitas – Oliver returned to partner with Kalim and take over running Weidner’s Gardens on January 1, 2013.
When asked about changes he has witnessed over the years, Oliver said, “There are always challenges with businesses and always opportunities and we have seen a steady growth in our business over the years. In my time here a lot of clients have become friends. When we first took over, we were out in the retail center a lot more and that gave us the opportunity to get to know our retail customers in a way that most back house managers do not.”
When not working in the greenhouses, Oliver likes to hike, camp and travel with Angela. He visits his homeland of Germany to see family and friends often. Oliver and Kalim enjoy fishing together and they go out as often as possible on Oliver’s boat.
Favorite plant – Begonia Solenia
Favorite Veggie – Tomato
Favorite Fruit tree – Nectaplum
Favorite Poinsettia – Fiesta Sunrise
Fun Fact – For a few seasons, Oliver created the Del Mar Fair garden exhibits and even won 1st Place in 1998!
Kalim Owens, Owner/Wholesale Manager
Kalim grew up in the Central Valley working various agriculture jobs. His wife, PJ, had done her graduate schooling at SDSU and ended up with a job at Palomar College so they moved down to San Diego. Kalim wasn’t sure what work he would do in San Diego with his previous work experience. He started out growing culinary mushrooms for a company in San Marcos. After that he did a stint inspecting avocados for the California Department of Agriculture. Eventually, he landed a job doing wholesale sales for Robert Hall. Kalim jokes, “I didn’t know the difference between an outhouse and a greenhouse back in the day but I knew I could talk to people and sell what I needed to sell.” Robert Hall was a supplier to Weidner’s Gardens at the time and that is how Kalim was introduced to Evelyn and Oliver (who would come to pick up plant orders). When he felt he had learned all he could at Robert Hall, he took a job at Weidner’s Gardens to expand his knowledge of the industry. Kalim has been here since 1997 and has never looked back.
Kalim recounts that when he first came to Weidner’s Gardens, “we were a very spring oriented business and one of the first things we did was develop new crops that were more weekly sales types crops – our Kalanchoe program, Cyclamen, Poinsettia program. This helped wholesale production and retail.” He also talks about the experience of working with Evelyn and what is special about this industry. “It’s rare that you get to work with somebody who has been in the business her entire life – Evelyn has a lot of experience that we drew on and still do. Being in the nursery business ruins you for doing anything else, it gets in your blood.”
When not working and playing practical jokes at work, Kalim enjoys going to Padres games, working on his house and landscaping, and fishing with Oliver when they can get away. He feels very fortunate to be so close to the ocean coming from the San Joaquin Valley. When Oliver and Angela were ready to come back to Encinitas, Kalim flew to Maryland to help them move back out here, which included bringing back the boat. “Fishing is the only time I can truly unplug from the digital world and plug into the natural world, it’s therapy. Plus we really snack it up when we are out on the ocean.” Kalim and PJ are empty nesters that would have their kids back home in a heartbeat – son, Trenton, is in North Carolina in grad school and daughter, Bondy, is in Orange County with their first grandbaby, Truman.
Favorite Plant – Encephalartos lehmannii
Favorite Veggie – Tomato
Favorite Fruit Tree – Avocado
Favorite Poinsettia – Traditional Red
Weidner’s Gardens started small with Bob and Evelyn’s family and has expanded to include the family that was gained over the years. We all feel fortunate to be a part of this legacy and continue to provide the best plants and best service to our wholesale and retail customers. We thank you all for being a part of our Weidner’s Gardens family as well!