NORTH SAN JUAN, Calif. April 9, 2018 – Sweetland Garden Mercantile has dramatically expanded! Twelve years ago, Darlene Markey, a local school teacher and avid gardener walked into a small, barely opened garden store called Sweetland Garden Supply. She requested the current owner, Mike Schrieber, hire her for the summer, as the San Juan Ridge wanted a Garden Store. He said, ‘NO! He would rather have a business partner.’ She went to an accountant to ask for advice and he told her that it was a bad plan. She didn’t believe him. Within six months, Darlene bought out the initial owner and ventured into the private sector. The store at that time was 400 square feet of actual retail space and did not have a use permit to operate.

Darlene’s first step was to jump through Nevada County hurdles and obtain a use permit. The business thrived and within one year it became obvious that the space was not enough. She hired two people to help. Then she hired a bookkeeper. Then she hired a third person. Five years into managing the business, Darlene asked her son, Mike Puetz to move back from Long Beach to help run the business. He did and now is the general manager.

Darlene’s vision expanded. She recognized the Ridge needed small hardware, plumbing, household project merchandise, chainsaw blades and even gifts. Basically, the Ridge needed a mercantile. She asked her then-landlords repeatedly to build a new store, but no agreement was ever reached. Therefore, she bought the land from the landlords and began the process of creating Sweetland Garden Mercantile. It took two more years for Darlene to bring her vision into fruition. Today, Sweetland is 2000 square feet of space, built by local contractors, Cooper Reid and Tod Dugan. Handmade features, such as a handrail by blacksmith Eric Clausen and a madrone slab counter by Steven Corbett make the sturdy new building stand out.

The store is broadly stocked with small hand tools, chainsaw blades, hardware and a full line of organic soils, and garden supplies. Darlene continues to give classes on soil amending, compost tea, and using biology to enhance gardening. Sweetland is a place for other specialists to give classes; Amigo Bob has taught classes each spring at Sweetland, there will be permaculture classes this year by Brooklyn Annie, and Mud and Pearls will be using Sweetland as one of their classroom locations. This year Amigo Bob teaches about Pest and Disease Management. Check out for a full list of current classes.

Currently Sweetland has six employees, plus Darlene and is a busy hub of activities. The staff at Sweetland loves their thriving, new place and each one will tell you working there is FUN. A Grand Re-Opening is planned for Friday, April 20 from noon to 4:20 pm. All are invited to attend in downtown North San Juan, the store is located at 29435 Hwy 49, North San Juan, CA 95960. DIG IT!