As second-generation owners, Lucas Tatham and Trellis Smith pruned the family’s garden center operation back hard 15 years ago. They’ve been reshaping it ever since and building Reedsville up in the process!
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Lucas Tatham and his partner, Trellis Smith, picked up stakes in Smith’s native New Orleans and moved to Tatham’s childhood home of Preston County. Over the following few years, they assumed management of the family business Tatham had grown up in: Tatham’s Garden Center. And they consolidated its Kingwood and Morgantown locations into one shop at a rural crossroads halfway between, at Reedsville.
The couple’s renamed Modern Homestead continued to build on the company’s good reputation, growing and selling plants, offering landscaping, and providing autumnal decorations and Christmas trees and wreaths for the holidays. They soon added gifts and gourmet foods to their retail offerings, and they’ve grown that side of the business online as well.
But as they’ve been able, Tatham and Smith have also bought surrounding properties, rescuing them from decline and putting them to productive new use. They renovated a 1930s home and opened it as their first Modern Homestead Guest House in 2015 with two guest suites; they’ve since rescued a second home similarly and, in October 2020, were renovating a third.
In 2017, the couple bought an 1880s clapboard church that had been boarded up since the 1930s. They host yoga sessions and concerts in the one big, uplifting room and rent it for weddings and community events. With socially distant seating, the Rustic Church now hosts weekly “cozy dinners” and occasional book events—brunches and dinners with cookbook, decor, and local history authors.
Tatham and Smith are strengthening connections in the local community and building a loyal and growing garden center customer base that extends deep into the surrounding states. Forty years in, they’ve reshaped this family business into a hub for beauty, health, and creativity.
We caught up with Smith to ask how he and Tatham make their multi-faceted business model work.
How do your working styles complement each other?
TRELLIS SMITH: We have a divide-and-conquer attitude: I’m the cook, and Lucas is the gardener. I’m really good at sourcing materials for a project, and he’s really good at executing.
How do you juggle all of the parts of the business?
TS: We make lots of checklists. We constantly review priorities. And being seasonal helps—there are ebbs and flows. In the spring, we’re working in the greenhouse. Late spring through summer and fall we’re doing special events at the church. During winter, we’re able to maintain our properties. It all works together.
What’s the trick to succeeding in business in a small community?
TS: It’s about relationships. You have to be available, you have to be consistent. In the garden center, we build relationships by teaching our customers how to take care of plants. On the dinner side, it’s providing good, innovative food. In our guest house we work very hard to create a nice environment for people visiting.
What’s your vision for Reedsville?
TS: What we’ve always talked about is just a nice, welcoming community with maintained properties. If they’re beautifully landscaped, even better—everyone loves to see pretty flowers and nice trees. Reedsville is convenient to Morgantown and on the Deckers Creek rail-trail, and a lot more young families are raising kids here these days. We’re just doing our best to be good neighbors and good ambassadors for our state.
What are your future plans for the businesses?
TS: We’re going to continue to offer more of our products online to make it easier for people to shop from home and pick up. Right now, we think that’s where we can be most useful to the community.