Later this summer, when the “closed” sign goes up across the gates of Neumeier Nursery & Greenhouses, the beautiful property will be transformed into serving only as the pleasant, private home and gardens of Bill and Jo Ann, “Jody,” Neumeier.

After 54 years in business, the couple has resolved to retire by Aug. 1. It really will take resolve. They’re announcing it now to enjoy celebrating with their customers through the busy summer gardening season. Both are trying to make the mental adjustment after starting their complex, horticulturally based business from “three greenhouses and a cold frame” into the extensive nursery and greenhouses it became.

They have been attuned for almost a lifetime to the constant tending of living things, including raising a family while living at their workplace. The idea of free time is an unfamiliar concept. There’s something that needs doing every hour of daylight at a nursery. Bill first learned he had the stamina and the talent to succeed as a nurseryman as a boy, when he worked for the family-owned McKee Nursery, formerly on Rogers Avenue.

He learned from an excellent teacher and took in other business skills and aspects when working for a floral business while in college. Jody and Bill were married less than a year when he put two greenhouses in their backyard, where he grew groundcover plants for McKee. When they moved to a first house on North O Street, across the street from their current home, they expanded to the “three greenhouses and a cold frame” size. They grew and sold bedding plants – their main crop was pansies. Pansies are still a large part of their plant stock. Their office was the glassed-in front porch of the home. Jody also merchandised a few, inexpensive glass decorative gifts, pots and trays of houseplants. “There were just a few things, but people bought them,” she recalled.

Bill operated a lawn maintenance service, with many residential clients throughout town, mowing himself and, increasingly, supervising employees. Jody took care of retail nursery sales from home. “The kids were all little,” Jody recalled about her sons Billy and Joey. “We laughed because Lisa’s first word was ‘customer.’ When the doorbell rang, I would put her in her playpen and the boys had to watch her. She would say, ‘Customer, customer!’ when she heard the ring.”

They were in business there for seven years, but knew they could do more. “It actually got to where we could tell exactly what we could make each year because that’s all the room we had,” she explained. “That’s all we could grow.” Bill started taking the family for weekend drives to scout for larger places.

Impulsively, Jody called the Gean family, who owned the large, red brick, 1904 home and acreage across North O Street from their house, although it was not offered for sale. The two families struck an agreement in 1976 for the Neumeiers to buy the house. It was so mutually pleasing to the families that Jody thinks of it as divine providence.

On five acres, there was finally room to flourish. Greenhouses were put up and, soon, a floral department was installed in the original brick carriage house where customers found the check-out register. Bill grows landscape, bedding and container plants, perennials and annuals that are hardy and suitable for local cultivation, always while preparing for the upcoming season. He is sought for his expert advice and concern to help a customer experience successful gardening. He also is known for enforcing the rule that no customer should carry their own plants to their car and he carries as many or more as his employees, offering last words of instructions as he closes the car door.

Jody’s discerning taste helped them gradually shape the charming little carriage house into one of the area’s most appealing sources of garden-related decor. While checking out their geraniums or impatiens, customers might also discover candles, greeting cards, a glass terrarium, wind chimes, statuary or whimsical garden ornaments no one else has. There also were selections of bulbs, fertilizer and other practical garden supplies.

More than 30 years ago, Jody began holding a fall festival day with guest vendors and local artists. It became an annual tradition, attracting crowds of visitors who took “pumpkin portraits” in vignettes she created outdoors. Kids took pony rides and got their faces painted. Adults took home pumpkins, gourds, mums and classic fall garden decorations.

Other seasonal events included Christmas open house and, of course, the spring rush of gardeners ready to get out into the dirt with new plants.

Until recently, Neumeier Nursery was a fixture at the annual Lawn & Garden show, entering with verve in the competition to set up a sensational, living garden display in the convention center. It was extraordinarily hard work to tote in and “plant” trees, shrubs, blooming flowers and even green turf for the three-day event, but they wowed the crowds and took top prizes many times.

Growing alongside all the green things were their three children, all of whom branched out from their parents’ roots of entrepreneurship. Son Billy became a hospitable restaurant and music venue owner in downtown Fort Smith and was a leader in establishing riverfront music festivals. After college, Joey became manager of the nursery. But following his brother’s death in 2018, he stepped in to run Neumeier’s Rib Room and Papa’s Pub & Pizzaria, while continuing to work at the nursery. He currently plans to open a third restaurant called Whippoorwill, also downtown.

Their youngest, Lisa Bobel Hearn, worked at the nursery until opening L Designs, a floral business, and the venue The Barn by Two Brothers. The Neumeiers also claim a bonus son to whom they became guardians, Chris Cochran, who worked many hours in the nursery, as well.

Four grown grandchildren and two great-grandchildren have been given garden experience and instilled with their grandparents’ work ethic – and love.

The couple also care greatly about their customers, many of whom became friends. It is certain their friendship will continue. One of the hardest things for them to relinquish in order to retire is their genuine desire to serve their clients, to whom they are so grateful. “We encourage everyone who might be the recipient of a gift certificate to bring them in and redeem them before the end of July,” Jody said.

Bill has a plan to go fishing with his brother. Taking time for himself has been rare but as he told his dog, Toby, they won’t have to walk down and open the gate early every morning. Jody has heard him tell his little buddy, “We might like to sleep late some days.”


Bill and Jody Neumeier
After tending Neumeier's Nursery & Greenhouses for more than four decades, the couple is retiring.
Growing in every season
Center, the original business sign
Changing seasons
The grounds, greenhouses and garden shop are a constant delight of beauty.


316 North 7th Street
Fort Smith, AR 72901