The operator of the Kiski Backyard Middle is retiring and the enterprise is up on the market

A longtime all kiski gardening guru is retiring.

Dave Vargo, owner of the Kiski Garden Center in Allegheny Township, announced the sale of his company and his retirement last week.

A large banner in front of his shop reads “Time To Retire – Garden Center For Sale”.

Vargo, 68, said he did the math and told his son it was time to retire after 41 years in horticulture.

“It’s difficult. I really don’t want to go, but I have to go,” said Vargo. “Everything will be the same – except that I won’t be here only seven days a week.”

The year-round, full-service garden center and seven greenhouses are located at 991 South Leechburg Hill Road. The business is listed for $ 200,000 and is offered turnkey.

Vargo does not own the building; he leases the property from Marvin Williams from Apollo. Vargo estimated the monthly rent at around $ 1,600 but had no exact amount.

Spring inventory has already been ordered, Vargo said.

“It’s a screaming deal,” said Vargo, adding that the sale includes all inventory and equipment – plus two 15-year-old siblings named Mary Kate and Ashley.

Garden center manager Linda Ban said the cats have never lived anywhere else.

“That’s all they know,” Ban said of the cats who make a living doing rodent patrols on the property. “They’re good at making mice and getting chipmunks.”

Vargo said he would love a landscaper to buy the business because it’s a fixture in the Alle Kiski Valley.

“People come from all over – Butler, Pittsburgh – it’s a good opportunity, and the goal is to keep it as a garden center.”

As a teenager, Vargo learned to work in the garden with his late uncle Tony. He then graduated from Penn State University with a degree in horticulture. For years, Vargo has contributed gardening columns to the Valley News Dispatch and other publications.

“I’ve never lived anywhere else,” said Vargo, who lives in Gilpin. “I didn’t care what came – here I am. I stayed.”

Ban said the news of the sale and Vargo’s imminent resignation came as a surprise.

“I probably wasn’t ready for that,” said Ban, who has headed the center since 1994 and regards Vargo as a close friend.

Customers can expect to continue shopping while the garden center is in the market.

“It will be open as usual,” said Ban.

Maddie Mastalerz, 16, works part time watering, planting and helping clients. As a little girl she always went to the store, especially with the cats.

The Kiski student at Leechburg Area High School said she hoped someone “as nice as Dave” would buy the center. “Someone who works hard, treats their employees well, and takes their time.”

The three-acre store has a year-round Christmas shop, animal memorials, succulents, fountains, birdseed, pet supplies, wind chimes and decorations, shrubs, trees, plants, flowers, and just about anything that is landscaping and horticultural needs.

Vargo said he will focus on his family and his own home landscaping needs when he retires.

“I will miss the people and the growth,” said Vargo. “I prefer growing tomatoes – they just taste so good.”

Vargo said key employees will stay and mentor the new owner.

“It’s established. The new owner will make money the day they turn the key, ”said Vargo.

Joyce Hanz is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Joyce at 724-226-7725,, or on Twitter.

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