Today, busy Metcalf Avenue looks nothing like it did in 1929 when the Gabler family opened their family-run landscaping business. The area was rural and open fields and farms stretched for as far as the eye could see. Ralph Gray, the president of the Sheffield Steel Corporation, owned what was known as a “pleasure farm” with an indoor horse-riding arena at what is now 72nd and Metcalf. Fred Gabler, Sr. built a greenhouse on the farm’s grounds and worked as a landscaper.
Around 1950, Gray leased some of his land and the Queen of the Holy Rosary Church was built. Gabler decided to move his landscaping business ten blocks north to 8131 Metcalf Avenue, where it still stands today.
Fred Jr. and John Gabler joined their father at the nursery, John after a professional baseball career that included stints with the New York Yankees and Washington Senators. The current owner, Fred Jr.’s son, also named John, started working at the nursery as a young man in 1972. John learned the family business from the ground up. His wife Kathy works with him, and his two sons have worked with him in the past. John said the keys to Gabler’s successful 84 year run are really quite simple; honesty, quality products and good service.
– Matt Gilligan, Johnson County Museum