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Brighton Nurseries under new management

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Hand over: From left Jay Benoza, Eddie and Mandy Simas and Eugene O’Connor (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Brighton Nurseries is under new management: from left Jay Benoza, Mandy Simas, Eugene O’Connor and Eddie Simas (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

After 32 years of running Brighton Nurseries in Devonshire, Eddie and Mandy Simas are relinquishing control of a business that has operated at the 12 Brighton Lane location since shortly after the Second World War.

Jay Benoza and Eugene O’Connor signed papers to take over the nursery, yesterday.

“Mostly we feel relief,” Mr Simas said. “My wife and I have been looking to sell for some time. We have a son and he was not interested in taking it over. Maybe we will feel sad when March comes and we really step back.”

But Mr Simas said they would still be silent partners. They will help out when needed but will not be heavily involved.

Mrs Simas said running the nursery had been a big job for her husband.

“He is here 365 days a year,” she said.

And business had really picked up since the pandemic began.

“There are a lot of new people who are getting into gardening,” Mrs Simas said. “People are putting in veggie gardens and are really into herbs and things like that.”

They met Mr Benoza and Mr O’Connor a few years ago when they started coming to Brighton Nurseries to buy plants and other items.

They had started Bermuda Green Thumb – The Plant Shop in their backyard on Sofar Lane in St David’s a year ago, and are well known for succulents.

“Mandy kept joking that they should take over,” Mr Simas said. “Then one day, Eugene said they were serious about it. I said ‘good, because we are serious about it, too’.”

Mr Benoza previously worked at Aberfeldy Nurseries, and Mr O’Connor was a senior supervisor in the enforcement unit at LF Wade Airport before going full-time with their business.

“Doing this wasn’t a gamble,” said Mr Benoza. “With Jay’s passion for plants outside, and my creativity in retail inside, we should be fine.”

And they were grateful to Mr and Mrs Simas for making it easy for them to take over.

“The reason we are able to do what we are doing in the middle of the pandemic is that they are assisting us financially with the take over,” Mr O’Connor said. “We don’t have to go into debt to start up a new business.”

He said Brighton Nurseries and Bermuda Green Thumb already had similar clientele. “Our customers are family oriented, small-time gardeners,” he said.

They have now closed their St David’s location. Mr O’Connor said operating in a residential area became more challenging as they became busier. And it was out of the way for many people.

“We are literally at the end of St David’s,” he said. “And we were working on less than an acre of land. We were limited with space.”

For the moment, the Simas family will retain ownership of the two acres Brighton Nurseries sits on.

“Me and Jay are very much about ‘buy BDA’,” Mr O’Connor said. “We want it to be affordable. There are already a lot of local vendors inside the Brighton Nurseries shop, which we will still work with closely.”

They built up Bermuda Green Thumb by growing their own stock and trading locally with other enthusiasts.

“We were not bringing in a cheap pot, putting a plant in it and selling it,” Mr O’Connor said. “We were offering things that other companies had brought in. Everyone was benefiting. It was about helping each other out. There are loads of small growers on the island. We will source plants from them and use this as the main selling platform.”

Changes to the business will not be drastic, but he hopes to widen the range of products offered. For example, their succulents will be made available at Brighton – The Plant Shop, probably in mid-March.

There will be eight staff members, including Mr O’Connor and Mr Benoza.

Two current staff members are staying on with the new management. One found employment elsewhere before the handover, and another person retired. They have hired two young Bermudians, and also Saturday help.

“When growth happens, the staff will grow too,” Mr O’Connor said.

He wanted customers to know that while they will be putting their own stamp on things, change will not be drastic.

Brighton Nurseries has existed on the two acre site off Brighton Hill since 1949 when it was owned by Roger Outerbridge and his family.

It passed to Mr Simas’s father, Mariano Simas, in 1986. Eddie Simas started working at the nursery after studying business management and took over as manager in 2010 when his father died.

For more information call 236-5862 or visit Facebook @brightonbermuda.

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Published February 17, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated February 18, 2022 at 8:04 am)

Brighton Nurseries under new management

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