The new owners of Bear Creek Nursery and Landscaping on Hwy. 23 North are familiar faces to many in the area who remember Nick and Heather Cross from the days when they headed up the Eureka Springs Outdoor Alliance in an effort to create a unified group for outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
“We led monthly outings including hikes, service projects and photo tours,” Nick said. “The idea was to get folks outside and create volunteer opportunities for residents to help support and maintain our local trails and public lands.”
Nick was born and raised in Eureka Springs but moved to Southern California during his high school years. His family moved back to Eureka Springs and his younger sisters, Chaon and Jaclyn, graduated high school here. His parents, Jack and Evelyn, came to Eureka Springs in 1970 and have had several businesses over the years. His mom, Evelyn, is the owner and broker of New Horizon Realty in Eureka Springs.
Heather is from Little Rock originally, moved to Fayetteville for college and stayed for 20 years. She received a BA in Political Science and a Masters in Horticulture. She moved to Eureka Springs in 2005 to become manager of the Eureka Springs Farmers’ Market.
Nick spent two years at Arizona State University and two years at the University of Arkansas, where he met Heather. After college he pursued a career as an outdoor instructor, eventually serving as a Field Instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) for more than 10 years.
“During that time, Heather and I lived in Eureka Springs and I would leave three times a year to go out west and lead courses for NOLS,” Nick said. “I have more than 130-weeks of time in the field leading backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering and caving courses.”
The couple left the area in 2010 when Nick was hired as the Assistant Director at NOLS Southwest in Tucson, Ariz. The couple lived on the 10-acre NOLS operations base, supporting field programs ranging from Big Bend National Park in Texas to the Joshua Tree National Park in California. During those four years in Tucson, Heather worked in the Education Department at Tohono Chul, a botanical garden/nature preserve.
After four years at NOLS Southwest, Nick had the opportunity to start a new program with Recreational Equipment incorporated (REI) in Raleigh, N.C.
“We’ve been in Raleigh for the past five years where I established a new REI Outdoor School, leading primarily single day outings in and around the Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro area of Central North Carolina,” Nick said. “Our program ran paddling, kayak and SUP, mountain biking, rock climbing and hiking/camping classes and supported all REI special events in the region.”
While in Raleigh, Heather served as the program director for Read and Feed, a mobile after-school literacy program that provided meals, tutoring and books to disadvantaged children in the community.
“After being away for nearly ten years, we felt like it was time to come back to Eureka Springs,” Nick said. “Taking over the nursery was an opportunity and we decided to make it happen. Heather is amazing with plants and this is a dream for her. I love working outside and am working primarily with the landscaping part of the business while Heather is focusing on the nursery.
“It’s still really new, but so far I enjoy working outdoors and meeting the people coming in excited about getting their gardens and yards prepared for the spring and summer. Everyone has been very supportive of us and we are grateful for this opportunity.”
Heather loves both the plants and the people. “I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since the day we took ownership,” she said. “Coming to work at Bear Creek Nursery everyday truly is a dream come true for me. We’ve kept all of the same employees and couldn’t be happier. We have inherited an incredible staff and are so thankful.”
Heather said customer service is what sets Bear Creek apart.
“I know everyone says that about their business, but our staff is knowledgeable, attentive and completely invested in what we offer,” Heather said. “In addition, Bear Creek is unique in that we are not only a retail nursery, we are also a landscaping business. Not only can we tell you how to care for your plants, we can help you design the perfect garden space.”
Some of their more popular offerings are anything resistant to being eaten by deer. Experienced gardeners know that unless they have fences or some other type of deer protection, it is possible to spend a lot of money on plants that end up being expensive deer food.
The compost and potting mix are also in high demand. Both are made on-site and used throughout the nursery. All of their soil mixes and mulch are available in bulk, with delivery available. Compost, mulch and potting soil are available for purchase by the bag as well.
They also have the largest selection of bamboo in the region. Customers come from as far as away Kansas and Texas to purchase their bamboo.
Their greenhouses are full of annuals, perennials and vegetables, not to mention the David Austin roses. Bear Creek also has a wide variety of trees and shrubs, and is the only full-service nursery in the Eureka Springs/Holiday Island area.
Heather and Nick are taking over from the previous owners, Gordon and Tina Powell, who have helped with the transition.
“Gordon and Tina are the reason Bear Creek has such a loyal following,” Heather said. “They have worked tirelessly over the past fifteen plus years to ensure everyone gardening with Bear Creek is a happy gardener.”