Shortly after returning from Vietnam, Mario and his wife-to-be Karen went for a Sunday drive on a sunny afternoon in February, 1972. Early for a date with friends, they drove around and stumbled upon a beautiful piece of rolling land on Marks Road. Two hours later, they signed a contract for their new homestead in Medina, Ohio.
The nursery was born when Mario Cekada, after playing a frustrating game of golf, decided he would have far more fun planting and tending tree seedlings on their property. That Fall, pulling into their driveway lined with the Pin Oak trees which he planted and seeing their beautiful rusty-orange color, the name Rusty Oak came to be.
Mario realized the possibility of this becoming a full-time venture when he went to a trade show and booked a number of orders! On the way home, with his oldest son Chad by his side, Mario was beyond jubilant at his good fortune. That Monday morning, he gave his two-week notice as Controller of a wine importing company in Cleveland, bought a tree spade and delivered on all of his orders on a timely basis!
As the business developed, Karen, his wife and a CPA, joined the business. Later, two of their sons, Chad and Kirk, who worked in the business as youngsters, graduated from college at OSU-ATI and joined RON on a full-time basis. Their youngest son, Drew, also involved in the family business as a youngster, has contributed his computer skills and other talents to the nursery. Along with family, they are blessed with a core of dedicated employees who have helped the operation expand to where it is today.
With a real love for plants and their ability to create an environment that enhances emotional and physical well-being and a love for life, they have built a campus showcasing the many and varied possibilities that plant material offers.
They celebrate trees and, at Christmas time, as a tribute to the human spirit, light their 50 foot Purple Beech tree, given to Karen by Mario as a birthday present some 40 years ago, with 45,000 lights, for all to see, making it look like an exploding firecracker!!!
Much research has validated the emotional and environmental benefits of flowers, plants and trees. In a nutshell, our green industry products and services improve emotional health; enhance employee innovation and ideas; strengthen feelings of compassion; decrease worry and anxiety; build stronger communities (e.g. America in Bloom); mitigate environmental externalities; and improve the economic value and appeal of homes; boost seniors’ well being; enhance hospital recovery rates; – just to name a few.
Rusty Oak Nursery takes pride in our industry and the landscape professionals who have made it what it is today! We have sponsored the OLA and ONLA Awards Banquets because we believe recognizing the outstanding work of professionals in our industry fosters the creative work of the future.
As a member of the Nursery Growers of Lake County, we hosted their annual Summer Field Day on our campus with some 500 landscapers and staff in attendance.
As a trendsetter in the industry, we’ve showcased our operations to international guests in collaboration with the Ohio State University’s Secrest Arboretum. We have also given our services and support in research and treatment of the Emerald Ash Borer.
The bottom line is that we love what we do, we love the people that do it with us and we make every effort to show our support.
In support of our industry we are members of the following: