A banner marking the 90th anniversary of Atlantic Nursery and Garden Shop now flutters in front of this Freeport icon. Atlantic Nursery is a full-service garden center, with an expansive collection of plants, trees, shrubs and gardening supplies.
On a recent morning, inside the nursery’s administrative offices, Christina Feile, the controller and financial officer, was busy at her desk. Every day, Feile (pronounced filey) gets to work beside her father, Sigurd “Sig” Feile, and her sister, Leeanne Krause.
Ninety years ago, the grounds the Feile family now manages were kept by an aunt and uncle. In 1929, Karl Feile opened Atlantic Nursery two blocks west of what is now Guy Lombardo Avenue. That same year, Karl’s sister, Anna Feile, came to the U.S. from Stuttgart, Germany.
She worked alongside her brother and took over the nursery in 1957, after Karl died suddenly of a heart attack. Anna went on to become the first woman to be Nurseryman of the Year in 1968. Four years later, she was inducted into the New York State Nursery and Landscape Association Hall of Fame.
Over the years, the landscaping center has grown into a 2.5-acre nursery. “I’m thrilled my daughters are working here,” Sig said. “I couldn’t do it without them. I hope they continue to [be] passionate about this work, because it’s very hard work.”
Together, the trio have preserved the Feile family legacy. Sig, 74, became a partner in 1967, and took over the nursery when his aunt Anna died 1998. He has been president of the business since 2000.
Christina left her job in finance 18 years ago to work alongside her dad, and Leeanne, 38, left her job as a teacher in Queens 11 years ago to do the same.
”I felt that it was a family legacy, and it had to go on,” Christina said.
“We knew that no matter what we did in life,” Leeanne said, “we would come back to the family business.”
Christina said that she and her sister had to become horticulture experts in order to provide the best gardening resources for customers. The nursery is known for its state-certified nursery professionals — and the daily insight that they offer.
During the day, Sig and Leeanne are often seen around the nursery helping customers, while Christina handles the back end and finances. Admitting that he should spend more time in the office, Sig said that talking to customers is his favorite part of the day.
A fourth generation of Feiles can also regularly be seen at the nursery. According to Sig, his grandson Ryan, 13, says he will run the business one day. The younger granddaughters, Margo Feile and Anna and Ellie Kraus, spend time watering plants and working on small indoor gardens. Seeing his family connect with the nursery makes him happy, Sig said. And he hopes to keep it growing and thriving in the future.
“I hope I never have to retire and can snoop around here as long as I can,” Sig said. “I’m not going to unload trucks when I’m 99 years old, but I’d still like to interact with customers and staff.”