Highland Gardens stops growing

It?s been a good run for Bob Lees and his family at Highland Gardens in Salem, but the store will close for good today – other than a one-week liquidation sale in January.A developer who is buying the property from Lees plans a commercial development on the site, located on the northbound side of Highland Avenue (Route 107), according to Lees, who started the business in 1995.?We bought the property and converted a two-family house into a garden center,” said Lees, who owned and operated Lynn-based Robert A. Lees Landscape Contractors for 48 years before selling it in 2006. He said the company did a good amount of work in Lynn, including the healing garden at Union Hospital, traffic islands, and for the Lynn Water & Sewer Commission.Highland Gardens sells shrubbery, flowers, mulch, plants, vegetables and, at this time of year, Christmas trees and wreaths. Lees said the business has developed a loyal following, so he wanted to get the word out that it will close.?It?s hard to compete with the big box stores and Market Basket,” said Lees, who has lived in Lynn with his wife, Claire (Fitzgibbons) – St. Mary?s Class of 1959 – since 1969. Claire ran the business side of the landscaping company and has done clerical work and customer service at the garden center since its inception. Their son, Robert Jr., worked as manager of the garden center for 15 years before leaving to work for a landscape contractor in Rowley five years ago.The Lees have two other adult children, five grandchildren and a great-grandchild.?I?m 74, but I don?t want to sit still,” Lees said. “I?m still going to be doing irrigation systems and landscaping.”Lees grew up in Swampscott and attended Swampscott High before leaving to join the National Guard.Lees, who expects to close on the sale Jan. 31, said he is grateful for the many loyal customers who have supported him over the years. “We have a big customer base,” he said. “It?s been a good 20 years.”

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