If you’ve followed our “Watering with Champagne” articles in the past, then you know the value of Annie Huston’s voice. She’s taught us the value of planting bulbs and how to find solace in our gardens. Being a small business owner and Wash Park resident, this French transplant brings color and life to our neighborhood!
When did you land in Denver and more specifically Wash Park?
I landed in Denver over 30 years ago and graduated from the University of Denver! I guess I loved the neighborhood so much that after my marriage to Scott Huston, Landscape Architect and owner of Columbine Design, Landscape Architects and Contractors, we purchased a house in Wash Park in 1989. We raised our two children Morgan and Owen in the same block of South Ogden. The house was too small for the four of us plus the dogs and cat, so we took it down and built one that was better suited for all of us. We entertained the idea of moving instead for a couple of days and soon realized we would miss the park and the neighbors. Over the years, we have enjoyed seeing many more children learning how to ride a bicycle on the side walks and knocking on our door for Halloween. Older homeowners left us and a new generation of Wash park families came in, bringing new life to our blocks.
Tell us a bit about your journey with opening Birdsall & Co. Do you have a background in horticulture design?
Scott and I have owned Columbine Design since 1985 and as landscape architects, we were always calling on Birdsall & Co., the iconic store and great resource for our clients who needed high quality outdoor furniture, fountains and containers. It was the go-to place for me to pick gifts for fellow gardeners who would appreciate heirloom gardening tools. When the founder of Birdsall decided to retire at the end of 2012, we literally begged him to let us buy it from him and continue his legacy. At the time the store had been at the south end of Antique Row on South Broadway. It soon became clear that we needed more space and we moved it 13 blocks further south to 2870 South Broadway. This new location allowed us to stock more inventory outside, start offering indoor plants and containers inside and our customers have really appreciated the large parking lot.
As landscape designers, we often work with Birdsall customers to help with design ideas when they are ready to furnish their outdoor spaces, or to offer advice for choosing a fountain or container. We do not charge for this service, as we believe it is part of customer service and we put our expertise to good use.
My personal love is for French gardening which is the art of planting in containers. I still exclaim over new container shapes or colors, imagining what can be planted in them for a beautiful display. Sometimes containers are so stunning by themselves that they become an integral part of the architecture of the home, with or without plantings.
I love this time of year when we work with our vendors to design and order store brand containers and fountains that we will receive in January for the new season. What was once just an idea on paper becomes a new item we cannot wait to introduce to customers.
What has been your most treasured memory as an entrepreneur in Denver?
I have many treasured memories about being an entrepreneur in Denver over the past 30 years. What was then a sleepy town, afraid to adopt new ideas and designs, has now developed into a sophisticated city with the opportunities for designers to show their creativity and for the public to appreciate it. Denver is now a challenging environment where a retailer like Birdsall must always educate and inspire customers with new products and concepts that are exciting and worthy of either coast. There is room and energy in Denver for entrepreneurs in all fields and I meet enthusiastic, invested and forward-thinking colleagues who offer support for each other and press on with their vision. That being said, seeing kids play in the fountains on a hot summer day, out in the Birdsall yard, is pretty fun!
What do you love most about our ever-changing neighborhood?
Wash Park is our neighborhood. We know the sounds of it from the geese flying over the house from the park, the emergency vehicles on Downing, the races, concerts and the South High band practicing. As Wash Park homeowners we get to enjoy the park when it is not busy and we realize it is really an extension of our backyards. Through the eyes of visitors we become aware of how lucky we are to be able to walk to restaurants, ice cream shops, farmers markets, gyms, and each other’s homes. But even though the neighborhood is welcoming more amenities, it still retains its original neighborly vibes.
It is not unusual to meet my children’s friends’ mothers at the grocery store, or for my name to be used by the cashier at the Safeway on Downing and Evans. But what I loved the most about Wash Park has not changed in 30 years: it’s that we are so close to everything and yet feel far from it.
Tell us how you spend your free time?
Birdsall is my life, in a very good and positive way. I absolutely love what I do. I work with my children Morgan and Owen every day. Morgan runs the store in all its endless details, and Owen runs the operations. Cheyenne is the newest addition to the Birdsall family and she is fantastic. The four of us eat together, and socialize after work, as if 8 hours a day of togetherness is not enough to share all the stories, ideas and goals we have. Morgan keeps us all with plenty of books to read since we all enjoy that downtime activity. Walking round and round and round Wash Park is always a good choice for relaxing. Hiking and snow shoeing in South Park where we have a log cabin is for deep unwinding, Kauai once a year to take in all the beauty of the Garden Island with my best friend is for the laughter, a couple of trips to France to visit family (didn’t hear the accent?) make for good food and kisses, and most of all at least one adventure trip a year, somewhere in the world to keep my soul alive.
Of the many small businesses in Denver, who are your favorites to support?
Tattered Cover – Bookies – Buchtel Motors – Adelitas- Erica’s Boutique – Frame de Art- The Peace Cellar and Hope Tank.
Thank you Annie for taking the time to introduce yourself to your neighbors and giving us an insight into your life with Birdsall. We value your voice in the community and look forward to your future advice for those of us who are less coordinated with our green thumbs.