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Eagle Rock Disappoints Plant Nursery Owner

"Highland Park people are much better," says Echo Garden owner Hi Duk Lee. "We need customers from Glendale and Pasadena."

Hi Duk Lee—as straightforward as they come. Credit: Ajay Singh
Hi Duk Lee—as straightforward as they come. Credit: Ajay Singh
It's been about two months since Eagle Rock got a full-fledged plant nursery—its first in living memory—and its owner is more than a little disappointed by the business he’s been getting from Eagle Rockers.

"My prices are reasonable but Eagle Rock people are always asking for a bargain," says Hi Duk Lee, owner of Echo Garden, which relocated from Echo Park to 4515 York Blvd., a few blocks east of Eagle Rock Boulevard. Adds Lee, as if adding insult to injury: “Highland Park people are much better [customers].”

While positive news about the garden is spreading slowly by word of mouth, Lee says customers aren't exactly flowing in. Although he still gets many customers from Echo Park who used to patronize his old nursery, they hardly make up for the relative lack of business from local residents.

“We need customers from Glendale and Pasadena,” says Lee bluntly.

Running a nursery is tough work, and Lee does it almost single-handedly. Although his wife and daughter help out at the cash register and in the office, it’s Lee who does all the heavy lifting in the garden, which is located next to a proposed and highly contested 7-Eleven store on the intersection of York and Tonawanda Avenue.

“If I hire someone I have to pay $20 an hour,” he explains. “And he must know about plants.”

A Korean immigrant who came to the United States when he was 29 years old, Lee, 75, is a widely traveled man whose sense of world history and politics completely belies his blue-collar demeanor.

South Africa? Sure, he's been there—and he can argue authoritatively about how Mandela's revolution hasn't been good for the nation's economy. Japan? "Japanese are honest people, but the government is not," he says.

Lee does his best to keep customers happy. He serves them iced tea on hot days and is known to sometimes give complementary flower pots to customers he particularly likes.

Many of his regular customers are drawn to the wide and attractive selection of plants at Echo Garden. “I came to buy a flower pot but I found something else,” said Corrie Shenigo, a Mount Washington resident during a visit last week on Saturday.

Said Kristen Warren, a Highland Park resident: “I love it here.”
Hugh T. June 19, 2013 at 01:48 AM
People, Mr. Lee may have made some candid comments about his frustration to Ajay, the blogger on this site. I really don't think he meant to give a middle finger to anyone. He probably would have said things a little differently if he knew the context in which they would be repeated. Give the guy a break.
Chris Kurtek June 19, 2013 at 08:53 AM
I didn't know about this Nursery. I'll stop by for a visit. I wish the blogger had told me what types of plants he carries, pricing, and health of plants, and things of that nature which influence my buying decisions. I'm really not interested in questions on his views of global politics and definitely not interested in inciting 'turf wars' (pun intended) between neighborhoods.
Elijah H June 19, 2013 at 09:54 AM
Again, the snobbishness, he said no such thing. He said that Eagle Rock residents drive a hard bargain and Highland Park residents don't If that offends you, you might be too easily offended - and by might be, I mean are certainly. Quote me on that.
Roger Lee June 21, 2013 at 02:38 AM
Well now that we have your attention.... First, I would like to apologize to anyone who we might have offended. Our father often comes off as being rude by the crude comments he makes, but communication is difficult as English is his second language. I ask that you please be civil in your words and actions as he is a father and husband to those that love him. Second, to know our father is to either love him or hate him, which I have struggled with in our relationship. But to hear it from a third party is unfair, so I ask that you base your opinions on your own judgement and keep your opinions to yourself. If you take a moment to research my father, you will discover that he has done a lot for the Los Angeles Community. This man has accomplished more than many have in their lives, and his nursery is just another one of his many career changes,...at the age of 72. He has built that nursery by himself, and we as a family do what we can to support him, so please be kind. If you decide to visit us, we hope you will realize that this is more than a business. My father has gardened his whole life and is passionate about what he does. Echo Garden is a very personal project of his and he has opened it up for others to enjoy. Thirdly, I do agree that the article written about father was a bit odd. It was clearly not about the nursery but about my father who may have said something to piss Ajay off. Their conversation must have been consisted of more than the three sentences that Ajay selectively chose to publish. I think this article was weighted heavily on his personal opinions of my father and used this as a platform for his personal attack. We hope you will consider coming by Echo Garden and see for yourself what my father has accomplished. It's more than just a retail store. FYI: check us out on Yelp.
Red Beard Station June 23, 2013 at 03:25 AM
Relax. What the hell is wrong with you people? Getting "offended" by a comment that pits Eagle Rock against Highland Park. WHo cares? Its an offhanded comment that means nothing in the end. What you should do is go and buy from him and show him what "offended" you isnt true. What is actually going to happen is that this guy is going to end up the victim of a horribly written article. Mentioning South Africa? REALLY?

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