Excerpt from Powell River Living, Blast From the Past Column, May 2021.
John and Marie Straathof, originally from Hague, Holland, came to Powell River in 1952 and joined siblings that had already settled in the area. After the war, they had heard that this beautiful town on the coast of BC had land, jobs and opportunities. They left their war-torn country behind and settled on Sutherland Street in Wildwood, along with their nine children at the time. Powell River was paradise for them.
At first, John worked at the mill and after five years, he left to start his own business: a nursery. Friends thought he had gone crazy, but John was driven. He self-taught himself horticulture and opened Straathof Nurseries in 1957, which went on to support his family of eleven for over 12 years.
In 1959, the Straathofs leased land from Olive Devaud and moved their nursery to 4195 Westview Avenue. It became the largest nursery in town, spreading from Huntingdon to Kamloops Street. A storefront and florist shop was even opened in 1963 at 4727 Marine Avenue called Straathoflora.
They sold everything from tulips to evergreens, shrubs, roses, fruit trees, fertilizer, and so on. John also built three greenhouses where he grew tomatoes and bedding plants. It was a year round business; at Christmas the greenhouses became filled with cyclamen and poinsettias. Always busy, John also made his own dandelion wine and kept five beehives.
In the spring, the nursery was truly a remarkable sight: many will remember the iconic Dutch windmill towering above the brightly coloured tulip field. The Straathofs treasured their wide variety of tulip bulbs and roses from Holland; their granddaughter fondly recalls getting in trouble for running in the tulip field as a young girl!