Los Olivos may be a small town, but according to Jefferson Woeste, owner of J. Woeste of Los Olivos, it comprises two distinct districts. “We’re uptown, and everything else is downtown,” he smiles, “and it’s definitely worth the effort to walk one block west from the flagpole to pay us a visit.”
Celebrating 10 years in business this April, Jefferson and his capable team have turned a 19th century cottage on a modest lot into the Valley’s premier succulent nursery and home store spot.
In the yard, artistically potted plants, ceramic figurines, elegant sculptures and playful fountains crowd the aisles, while indoors distinctive begonias and African violets, artwork and unusual gift items fill every corner of the house.
“It’s like Christmas all year here,” he says, “because there’s always something new coming in, another box to open. We just picked up a lot of new introductions, so we’re very excited for spring.
“I figure if you buy something you like,” he explains, “you can never go wrong.”
Jefferson credits his success to a tightly-knit staff that includes the husband-and-wife team of Lesa and Carlos Cervantes, as well as two of Lesa’s cousins, Danny and Sonia.
“We all have our niche, our specific duties,” he says, “and that’s what we focus on. “Lesa does all the planting and display,” he continues. “She touches everything in that yard. Her parents have owned The Garden Gallery in Morro Bay for over 30 years, so she grew up with it. It’s a passion for her.”
A friendly place where customers love to wander, J. Woeste features trails leading through a veritable wonderland of garden whimsy. Giant wind chimes ring in the breeze, displays dance with the motion of splashing water and eye-catching surprises await at every turn.
In addition to the tempting array of gift and garden goodies, J. Woeste houses an assortment of critters, some of which welcome a pat or two. Lucy and Lady, Jefferson’s Brussels Griffons, work when he does, and “their best friend, Buddy the poodle,” occasionally comes in with Lesa. All have loyal fans among the regular customers.
“Some people come in just to play with the dogs,” Jefferson laughs, “or to see the chickens and doves in the back.
“There’s something very special about the place when the register is shut down and you can just chill here,” he says. “To hear those wind chimes and take in all the beauty. The whole yard has great energy, partly because of the people who work here.”
Jefferson appreciates the special nature of his little corner of Los Olivos, and in order to share it with others, makes the yard available for special events, including fundraisers, private parties and wine tastings. Last August, Flying Goat Cellars chose J. Woeste as the perfect place to celebrate the release of their latest sparkling wine.
Though he gets some customers from out of the area, Jefferson considers his core client base to be Valley residents. “It’s the locals who keep us open,” he declares. “We have great customers and they’ve been very kind to us since the day we opened.”
Raised in Arroyo Grande, Jefferson visited the Santa Ynez Valley frequently while growing up. He often stayed with his cousins and passed the long, lazy days playing among the rolling hills and oak trees.
“My uncle owned the Los Olivos gas station in the 1960s,” he reveals, “and I used to spend my summer vacations here. That’s how I landed in the Valley.
“My cousins, J.C. and T.C. Carricaburu were instrumental in getting J. Woeste off the ground,” he adds. “After I bought the property, they brought in lunches, radios, pulled out stumps, did whatever needed doing. That’s one of the things I love about the Valley, everyone rallies around to help each other out. It’s a great place.”