Business: Sonny's Back!

By: Debra Lawless

Joe Nickerson, Frank “Sonny” Gada, and Tim Nickerson at the Stony Hill Exchange. DEBRA LAWLESS PHOTO

Popular Florist Joins The Nickerson Family At The Stony Hill Exchange

Let’s make one thing clear from the get-go.

The new business, Stony Hill Exchange at 136B George Ryder Rd. in Chatham, does not stock shovels, gardening gloves, soil or manure.

“We didn’t want to be a garden center, we thought it was too narrow,” business owner Joe Nickerson said last week. He emphasizes he is not competing with local businesses such as New England Gardens, Pine Tree Nursery or Agway of Cape Cod. “We have the latitude to put whatever we want in here.”

One thing Stony Hill Exchange has put in is a full-service florist in the person of Frank “Sonny” Gada of Chatham. For 20 years Gada made a name for himself as Sonny’s Florist with his shop on Orleans Road in North Chatham. The store closed in 2006. Gada has been a floral designer and horticulturist for over 46 years and his floral arrangements have been featured in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts annual event “Art in Bloom.” He has also created his own local cable access show “Sonny’s Floral Trends” which has run for the past 24 years and can currently be seen on the Cape Cod Media Center's Channel 99.

“I thought it would be a really neat idea to have someone who has been in the floral business as the center,” Nickerson says. “Everything else is going to revolve around that. It makes us a destination.”

Gada will be on hand in the store to take floral orders for weddings, funerals and parties. He can create bouquets, arrangements and small gardens.

Look around the 750 square foot-store and you will find plenty of healthy houseplants. There are air plants, bromeliads and sea urchin shells with plants growing out of them. And there are Sea Land Sea floral designs in glass by Gada. Along one wall is a floral cooler of fresh cut flowers.

Stony Hill Exchange had a soft opening on May 25. Moving to this part of Chatham was something of a shift for this branch of the Nickerson family.

“My family has been in North Chatham for six generations, or something,” Nickerson says. He is the eldest of the seven children of the late “Joe Nick,” Chatham’s town historian who died in 2007. From 2004 to 2019 Nickerson ran his landscape business, Nickerson Tree and Landscape, Inc., from the same North Chatham shop where his father once ran his construction business. But times change, and Nickerson decided to move his business to this nearly one-acre site on George Ryder Road, next door to Chatham Municipal Airport. While Stony Hill Exchange and its parking lot are in the front of the lot, offices and the landscaping business are in the back. Way out back Nickerson has a mini nursery and beehives.

The business’s name came about as a group effort and has an interesting story. The family “exchanged” its long-time business address of 517 Stony Hill Rd. for 136 George Ryder Rd. Also, Joe’s son Tim, a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army reserves, is well-acquainted with military “exchanges” also known as “PXs.” Joe Nickerson says an old meaning of “exchange” is “trading post,” so “exchange” is a nod to Tim’s long military career.

The business is altogether something of a family affair, with Tim Nickerson actually on hand now that he has returned from a tour of duty in Kuwait and Iraq. And Tim’s son Noah created the business logo and is helping with marketing. Tim’s wife Erika found the used jewelry display case discarded at the side of a road, and Joe’s wife Suzy has contributed retail know-how after 42 years running her store Pentimento on Main Street. Becky Mendible is also employed here.

“It’s been an adventure,” Joe Nickerson says.

As well as houseplants and fresh cut flowers, the store specializes in products that are local, made in America, organic or repurposed. A mirror surrounded by white scallop shells is prominent. That was made by Nickerson’s cousin Willard “Nick” Nickerson of North Chatham, owner of Chatham Coastal Creations. Nick Nickerson’s line of handcrafted ornamental sea scallop shells is also on sale at the shop.

Nick Nickerson’s son-in-law, Jim Beebe of Harwich, is represented with his finely-crafted whale cutting boards and Cape Cod cutting boards. Wild flower honey was collected from the beehives out in the back of the store. Jewelry by Molly Spalt of Harwich is displayed in a glass case up on sawhorses. John C. Domos, a Harwich builder, created the wall display cases and serving boards that are for sale.

Under one window is something called “the 300-year-old table,” made from 18th century boards that are wider than any lumber milled today. There are polished wood benches by Brent Hemeon of Hemeon Farm in Harwich.

The store also sells beeswax candles, pottery, Woodfire soaps, Old Whaling Co. bath and body products, decorative wooden sharks, glazed flower pots, vases and decorative carved wood.

Stony Hill Exchange is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 508-348-5604.