Last Christmas for Charlie Smith at Rufty’s Garden Shop

Published 12:01 am Sunday, December 18, 2022

SALISBURY —  Rufty’s Garden Shop has been in Salisbury since 1957. For 65 years, Rufty’s has been one of the local go-to destinations for people looking to get their hands dirty with the assortment of plants. But all good things must come to end: owner Charlie Smith has decided to sell the store.

Smith was born and raised in Salisbury and grew up with the Rufty family, original owners of the shop.

“They were just fine folks and I just can’t say enough nice things about them,” Smith said.

Smith wanted to be a forest ranger at first, but after finding out there was a four- to five-year wait for employment, he switched his focus to horticulture. In the early 1980s, Smith came back to Salisbury where he eventually got a job at Rufty’s and has stayed there ever since, buying the store in the 1990s.

“I started off loading trucks. Just like the bag boy at the grocery store who ends up buying the store one day. It was just that kind of scenario, storybook.”

When Smith started running Rufty’s, he began to do things his own way to keep up with the innovation in plants and what people wanted.

“We did a little bit of different things in the early years. Mr. Rufty was into growing things old school in metal food pots, metal food containers and stuff like that. Of course, horticulture had changed over those years that he had had it. We started the new way, we grew some things in nursery containers. It made a difference I think, the customer was ready for a new and improved product,” Smith explained.

Smith had a plant nursery at his home at first, but he later started growing everything on site after deer started to get too friendly with his plants. Always staying on top of new materials, Smith buys local plants except for specimens like topiaries and bonsais that he gets from the West Coast.

“We had the knowledge because I have horticulture experience. When people came in and they had an insect or disease problem we were able to diagnose and prescribe a product to fix it for them. They came here when they wanted to know something and wanted to know it right,” Smith said.

Through the years and changes in the market, Rufty’s has stayed going because plants and gardening is such a broad and fulfilling activity to take part in.

“Even in bad times, the garden shop still did good because people would stay at home and do a staycation before that was a term. They would invest a couple hundred dollars in their yard instead of investing a couple thousand dollars in going to the beach for a week,” Smith said.

People were let down to hear that Rufty’s was closing, but Smith wants to spend time with his family. His first grandchild is due in February. He’s still waiting on a buyer, but hopes whoever takes over next continues with what made Rufty’s last so long in the first place.

“I would love to see somebody come and get it and run it as a garden shop. There has been some people interested in it just for the real estate value of it, but for me, I’d rather see it stay as Rufty’s. It had such a good reputation, it be a shame to let that go after 65 years of being in business for somebody to not keep that going,” Smith admitted.


Charles Smith tends to some of his Christmas poinsettia plants.

This ad from 1960 in “The Salisbury Post” tells about Rufty’s grand opening.

Smith says at one time, Rufty’s housed over 100,000 plants.

Smith says at one time, Rufty’s housed over 100,000 plants.