All in the family
Lee credits family as the main reason she has stayed put all these years. She grew up in Westchester, and she was 16 when her dad bought the business. Lee has worked alongside him from the very beginning. Her kids grew up in the store, chasing each other through the aisles and balancing on bags of soil and fertilizers. They’ve all worked there, along with their friends. To this day, Lee’s niece, Kimmy, can still be found behind the counter every Saturday.
But the Apgar notion of family doesn’t stop there. It extends to the many beloved employees who have worked there over the years. Longtime customers may remember names such as Ramone and Louis. Gary Rehm came back to join the Mill River family in 2021 after many years away. And let’s not forget the many cats who have been on the payroll. Lee says Freckles and Speckles were the customer favorites.
Family isn’t the only reason Lee has stuck around. It’s also the clients.
“I love our customers,” she says. “I love meeting new people and seeing so many familiar faces walk in the door.”
For most customers, first-timers or regulars, they can sense Lee’s dedication from the very first time they meet her.
“Lee operates a congenial hub for local gardeners,” says local gardener Ellen Best. “Most popular potting soil? Best shovel? She knows who’s buying what – and why.”
Lee seems to be part of the place – she’s perfectly at home in the modified gazebo (which functions as a display area), check-out counter, cat perch and gloriously singular hat stand. She exudes a warmth and friendliness on the job that immediately puts you at ease. She’s humble, yet immensely knowledgeable. Lee even quotes her dad when asked about her motto for customer service: “You have a need; we have a source.”
That motto rings particularly true when you explore the nooks and crannies of the store. Long-time customers will tell you that they still discover new products and parts of the store on a regular basis. Mill River seems to have everything you could imagine needing for your garden or landscape. And, if they don’t have it, they’ll find it for you.