CRESSKILL, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A Christmas tradition is coming to an end in New Jersey as another family owned garden center is set to close.

Willow Run in Cresskill, a family business which dates back to the 1930s, is under contract to be sold and will likely close by the spring.

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The Bergen County institution is known for its winter wonderland that includes Christmas cottages, animatronic displays and live animals that children can feed.

“It’s definitely a destination,” said Glen Pendergast, who is the third generation to operate the garden center. “We hear over and over again how people came as kids, their parents brought them, and now they’re parents and they’re bringing their kids.”

Longtime customer Alice Comber, 65, said she has been coming to Willow Run since she was a child.

“My mom used to take me every year. I had two children. I brought them. Now I have a granddaughter,” Comber said. “It’s tradition…every season we come to Willow Run.”

Apparently that loyal customer is in a shrinking demographic.

Pendergast said he sees a generational shift.

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“Our society today is so time-focused that the thought of spending an hour outside in your yard weeding or planting flowers is just foreign to a lot of younger people,” Pendergast said. “There are young people who love to garden but the vast majority of young people have other interests than spending time out in the yard.”

Big box stores are also stealing customers but Pendergast still believes his family does it better.
“They’re getting personalized service and they’re getting the knowledge of what they get throughout the year,” Pendergast said. “I mean anyone can sell a bag of fertilizer or a bag of weed and feed in the spring but if you’re applying everything at the wrong time it doesn’t matter. It’s kind of the same thing with lights and everything else.”

It was a difficult decision, but the family has agreed to sell the three-acre site.

“Many issues led to our decision to finally sell,” Pendergast said.

Town homes will likely be built on the property.

“It breaks my heart,” Comber said. “It’s a shame to see tradition and history and a bit of nostalgia that’s going away.”

To his customers, Pendergast said, “You sorely will be missed and we thank you for all of your patronage and all of your memories that we’ve been able to share throughout the years.”

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