“It’s been a great run.
And it’s not over yet.”

Photo Courtesty of Durham Magazine

George Davis of Stone Bros. & Byrd, is a Durham legend—in his own laid-back way. We caught up with him to talk a little bit about the past, the present and the future, as the store he’s owned for almost 50 years moves up the street, and The George begins construction on this historic site.

The early days.

When I got into this in 1976 it was a farm supply business. Durham was divided between the farms, the factories and Duke University, that was pretty much it. We had farmers and city folks—that is what made this so unique. We knew farming was going to be declining. My job was to transition into lawn and garden, which looked like the future. And fortunately that’s the way it went.

From farm to garden.

What kept us going? We’re personable, we don’t try to imitate the chains, we try to sell quality and give advice along the way. People appreciate that. We became known as a gathering place, common ground for a lot of diverse interests. We still have everyone from a Duke neurosurgeon to a street sweeper trading with us.

There was this movie.

In 1987, Bull Durham was filmed across the street. The first encounter I had with the movie crew, they came to me and said they were going to make a movie about baseball. Of course at that time sport movies were not big. So I said, good for you. Let’s just say we watched one movie get filmed, enjoyed every minute of it and don’t ever want to do it again.

Wheeling and dealing.

They said your building is too prominent in the camera. I said, you’re not going to knock it down. They wanted to paint it. I told them there were stipulations: You have to paint the whole building, and I want a higher-grade paint, and it needs to come from the store next door. They said OK. Then I said there’s something else: I have two sons and I want them to have parts in this movie. They had to check on that, but that was OK, too.

Time marches on.

As time went on, I could see clearly what we were doing, as much as I love it, it wasn’t the fit for what was going on with property in this area. I started thinking, what’s going to be the best use of this place going forward. I talked to a lot of people to try and figure that out. From the first meeting with Beacon Street, I said to my son Hunt, something tells me I could work with these guys. I’ve really enjoyed being part of the process as they turned this thing into a reality. I liked being able to put my 2¢ in.

Carrying on the legacy.

I know the Beacon Street team understands the legacy. My other son, who we lost in a car wreck, he was very much part of this place. He always named whatever our future project was going to be The Byrd’s Nest. I’d love to see a little lounge or something with that name, that pays homage to him and to Stone Bros.*

One last look back.

It’s been a great run here, and that’s going to continue. I’ve had a lot of fun with a lot of people, people from every sector of life with an interest in gardening—my dirt people.

We wish George and Stone Brothers all the best as they set up shop in their new location at 937 Washington Street. And look forward to the next time we get to hear a few of his stories.

You can find the original George here. It’s the perfect time of year to stop by, say hello and head home with everything you need for your spring garden.

*We’re happy to report that The George does, in fact, honor the Davis family’s legacy with a Byrd’s Nest—a rooftop terrace with amazing views out over Durham Athletic Park and downtown Durham.