Last Saturday, the Yabusaki family shut the doors of the Dwight Way Nursery for the final time after 30 years of serving the Berkeley community. Kenneth Yabusaki made the decision to close the business following the untimely death of his sister Emi Yabusaki from cancer in late April.
The space at 1001 Dwight Way in West Berkeley has been a nursery since before World War II, according to Ken Yabusaki, who said it was owned by Italians until 1946 or 1947, when a pair of Japanese brothers took over. Yabusaki’s parents bought the business from the brothers in 1984. Then Kenneth and Emi began running the nursery together after the death of their father, Frank, from cancer in 1998.
In the last few months, after Emi’s death, Kenneth Yabusaki had been running the nursery with his mother, Tomoko Yabusaki. He has two sons aged 22 and 6 but, he said, the older one wasn’t interested in taking over the nursery.
“You have to have a passion for this business or don’t get in it at all… If you enjoy it, it’s a beautiful, wonderful career to get into. But there’s a lot of commitment,” said Ken Yabusaki.
Rachel Hope Crossman, a longtime Dwight Way Nursery customer and neighborhood resident, said the nursery had been a fixture in her day-to-day life.
“I have an apple tree growing in my yard today because my son, who walked through the nursery with me so many times at three and four years old, asked for an apple tree for Christmas when he was six,” she said.
Crossman said that Emi Yabusaki was a pleasure to be around and a driving force behind the nursery.
“I think it would be hard to continue without Emi. She was always cheerful, always happy, always relaxed, at the same time as being busy.”
The nursery garnered positive reviews from customers on Yelp. One reviewer gave it five stars and wrote: “I love this little nursery. It has a down to earth homestyle appeal that I enjoy.”
Yabusaki says that the neighborhood was rough when his parents bought the place. But, he says, the neighborhood and the business have grown together.
“When you plant a good seed in a neighborhood it spreads.”
The nursery’s last day was Saturday, June 25. Yabusaki said he plans to find another job in gardening or landscaping.
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