Dale and Claudia Loy, owners of Sunnycrest Nursery in Key Center, celebrated 35 years in business in June. Sunnycrest is the oldest business in Key Center under single ownership. But is now for sale and they hope to pass it on to new owners this fall, Claudia said.
In April 1981, the Loys left Sun Valley, California, because they didn’t want to raise a family there and came home to the Key Peninsula, according to Claudia. “It was time to be with family, so the children would know the extended family,” she said.
The Loys started work as live-in caretakers for the Key Peninsula Civic Center in Vaughn on Labor Day 1981. An opportunity arose the following May, however, when they had a chance to buy the Sukura Nursery in Key Center. They felt they had been working for other people long enough. “[We decided] if we were going to do anything, it would have to be that we would work for ourselves,” Claudia said.
They consulted with all the relatives before changing the name of the nursery to Sunnycrest. Donald Olson, Claudia’s father, built the current building in 1984. The Loys bought their home, which sits on the site of the original Olson homestead just up the hill from the nursery, in 1985.
Dale Loy had grown up in a farming community near Spokane while Claudia grew up on the Key, but neither had a background in horticulture and relied heavily on advice from relatives, especially their aunts, who were avid gardeners. But what they did know was how to build a community business.
Newcomers to the peninsula soon learn that Sunnycrest is the unofficial information center and ticket outlet for organizations on the Key. If you want to know what is happening, just drop by Sunnycrest, Claudia said. But if you want to know about the contributions the Loys have made to the community, you will need to ask around.
The Loys have contributed to almost every charitable auction ever organized on the Key Peninsula. Claudia has been organizer-in-chief for many events at the civic center. Dale has been a mainstay in the Key Pen Drummers musical ensemble and is a Two Waters Arts Alliance artist specializing in pine needle baskets and Chinese brush-stroke watercolor paintings. They have also been contributors to many fundraising projects, including the recent plantings in Key Center.
For Claudia, one especially fond memory was the day Theresa Walters, organizer of the 2001 Tacoma Garden Show at Point Defiance, asked her to do one of the display gardens. “We almost got divorced, but I got top awards for my garden,” Claudia said. “It was selected for Best Garden Design.” Voski Sprague helped create the wicker garden, designed to “reflect life 100 years ago.”
Amy Shaver, the Loy’s daughter, has her special memories about growing up with parents who worked so close to home. “When I was about 9, we would come down and pretend to shop and play store with an old cash register. The worst part was when we had to bag soil and bark,” she said.
Shaver also said she now has her own regular customers, “who come in only when they know I’m here.”
But now, after 35 years, Sunnycrest is for sale. “We want to hand the reins over to new owners who will continue to support and nurture and enjoy the community, as we have,” Claudia. She and Dale hope to sell their business sometime this fall, but will remain on the KP.
Claudia also has advice for any new business owner on the Key: “If you want people to support you, you must be part of the community. You won’t get joy out of this community unless you get involved.
“I think we have been successful at that.”