Eden, a gardener’s dream

Within a year of opening Eden in 1986, Dee Dice supplemented her fruit and vegetable offerings with plants. — File photo by Photo courtesy of Dee Dice

Now in its 25th year, Eden Market and Garden Center on State Road in Vineyard Haven has aged with ever-growing glory. Tomorrow afternoon, from 4 to 7 pm, the public is invited to celebrate the business’ first quarter century with owner Dee Dice.

Originally from Cheshire, Conn., Ms. Dice first visited the Island as a child with her family. She decided she liked it and returned seasonally as a teenager. Now an active community member and mother of two, she shepherded Eden from a one-building produce store to a verdant, flourishing full-fledged market and garden center.

An avid traveler, Ms. Dice was inspired to open a produce store after she saw the colorful fruit stands of Indonesia. She was intrigued by the prospect of owning a seasonal store that would allow her to travel during the off-season. Realizing there was an empty former produce store on state road, she brought her aspiration to the Island. The former business, The Italian Scallion, had been left empty, weeds strewn everywhere. With the help of a friend, Ms. Dice settled on the name Eden, and set about making a store that would embody its namesake’s beauty and bounty.

Ms. Dice began Eden on its current spot in 1986. “Other businesses welcomed me with open arms,” said Ms. Dice. “Norton Farm and Morning Glory Farm, which was very small then, were both accommodating. We still buy from them.”

Ms. Dice’s first customer was Argie Humphreys, the founder of Humphreys bakery, originally in North Tisbury. “He was from the south,” she recalled last weekend, “and he walked in and said, ‘Are these good peaches?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ So we walked around and tasted every fruit in the whole place. He said, ‘You’re gonna do good, I can feel it.’ He gave me his blessing, and his spirit will always live on here.”

Upon making it to her second year, Ms. Dice bought a few plants for decoration. “People kept wanting to buy them,” said Ms. Dice. “I kept saying ‘they’re not for sale’ until eventually I thought it would be a good idea to sell plants too.”

Ms. Dice had gone to school for nutrition, and had written a food and nutrition column for six years, approached the new, non-edible side of her business with an avid curiosity. She attended a landscape design school and became certified as a master gardener. “Like many things I’ve done, I learned as I went along,” she said. “Over time, I became more interested in the plants. If you leave the fruit, it goes bad, but the plants just keep growing.”

Always moving, always full of energy, Ms. Dice embraces change. “The business has always been increasing, maybe because I like a lot of action,” she said. “I never get tired with the store; you can keep making other businesses from it. One year we sold sheds, another year I made all the food in my commercial kitchen at home, another year we did landscaping, another year we did wedding flowers. This summer the big hit has been our arranged fruit baskets.”

Other plusses of the business are the principles behind it. “Having a store like this, you feel like your footprint’s lighter,” Ms. Dice said. “You’re selling things that grow and aren’t wasteful. We keep boxes, have compost, and try to reuse materials. Being a business owner is great because it’s easier to donate. We can let events use our plants and then bring them back. When you’re here 25 years, you get to feel like an active part of a community. That’s important. It’s important when you raise your kids, and it’s important for the world.”

A fine embodiment of the Island community’s propensity to pitch in and give back occurred when Ms. Dice adopted her first daughter. “I received a call a month early telling me that I had to go to Cambodia the next day. My store was still open and I hadn’t expected to have to close it. I called 20 people, and they called another 20 people, and they all helped me close the store. I left that afternoon.”

Ms. Dice relishes the many interesting people she has met through her business. “We have a lot of regular customers,” she said. “That’s what’s so fun about the anniversary party we are having this Friday. It gives us a chance to show our appreciation.”

Eden’s 25th anniversary party, Friday, Aug.13, 4 to 7 pm at Eden. It will include games, gifts, prizes, and many delectable edibles. For more information, call 508-693-5202.