Branching out: Entrepreneur finds the story in a forest

Trader Oak in Fort Worth, featuring Bourke’s twins Gus and Tave

Legendary Trees

1608 Rogers Road

Fort Worth 76107

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You can see the seedlings in person each Saturday morning 8 noon at the Clear Fork Farmers Market next to the Press Café in west Fort Worth at 4801 Edwards Ranch Road.

This company doesn’t want to see the forest, it wants to see the trees – particularly the ones that tell a story.

Legendary Trees is a family-run company that was recently started by Bourke Harvey, the founder and managing partner of Curly’s Frozen Custard and the managing partner of nine Jason’s Deli locations. One of Harvey’s inspirations for the company was the family conversations that he had with his mother and father in the shade of a tree.

“I recall many moments spent with parents under trees that provided shade, venue and a place to meet and enjoy cherished conversations,” Harvey said in a news release. “I still return to these trees with my family [wife Stephanie and four kids] to enjoy the moment away from the fast pace of the city. I know we can help create similar traditions for other families.”

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The trees that his company sells start as seeds gathered from famous “parent trees” such as the Century Tree, an 150-year-old live oak in College Station and the Treaty Oak in Austin. The seeds are planted in a greenhouse, where they are kept until they are six inches tall. After that they are transplanted into one-gallon containers and moved to outside growing pads. The saplings should be 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall by late fall.

Customers ordering the saplings will get them delivered by FedEx Ground in an eco-friendly box along with documentation of the parent tree’s history.

Harvey sells saplings from many famous trees including Fort Worth’s Trader’s Oak, which the Legendary Trees’ website says is a live oak at the site of one of the first North Texas trading posts where Archibald Franklin Leonard and Henry Clay Daggett set up shop and created businesses that employed thousands and shaped Fort Worth.

In October, there will be new offerings such as offspring from Austin’s Treaty Oak, the Goodnight Loving pecan, other live oaks from the Alamo and a tree Johnny Cash planted on the day his son was born.

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The trees can be ordered online at the Legendary Trees website or can be purchased at the Clear Fork Farmers Market at 4801 Edwards Ranch Road on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon.

What inspired you to start selling trees?

My four kids and I started growing trees from acorns we gathered from a huge live oak tree we have in our front yard. We then decided to write a business plan to start a commercial tree farm. I thought it would be a good exercise for them to learn. Based on our findings, we calculated that it would cost us $8.10 to grow a live oak to five feet tall. We met with several wholesale nurseries and sadly found out that the price they would pay us was $8.25 per tree. Their comment was “A tree is just a tree – yours is no different.” That reality inspired us to grow trees that are indeed different – trees that can tell a story!

What was the process like to start the company?

After writing the business plan and realizing how thin the margins were in the commercial tree business, we had to identify famous “parent trees” in Texas (that are on public land) and develop a schedule to first visit and then return to gather acorns. Then we had to build the actual nursery. I could not have done it without the help from Chuck and Linda Cade. They run the nursery and make it all happen!

What trees are on your wish list to be able to sell?

The Lone Cypress at Pebble Beach, Major Oak in Nottingham [England, Robin Hood’s shelter in 1790] and El Arbol del Tule in Mexico [over 1,000 years old]. I am excited to have saplings right now from the Johnny Cash Oak – the tree Cash planted on his estate the day his son was born.

Why are you particularly interested in history?

I majored in history in college and especially love the Larry McMurtry novel Lonesome Dove. Many of the trees from that time frame are still alive today.

Do you have any advice for new entrepreneurs?

Once you have a great idea, write a business plan to improve your odds of success. Make sure you have a passion for the reason behind your idea so you will dedicate the energy and focus to move it forward to its full potential.