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This winter wonderland will close permanently at the end of the year

Brandon Holveck
Delaware News Journal

After a 50-year run, Ronny's Garden World in Smyrna is closing at the end of the year.

An employee confirmed the closure to Delaware Online/The News Journal. The store's management team did not respond to a request for comment.

Throughout the year, Ronny's sells a variety of plants and landscaping products. Ahead of the winter holiday season, the Du Pont Parkway store transforms into a "wonderland" of Christmas decor, ornaments and lights.

Three-year-old Ava Foley takes a look at a miniature village at Ronny’s Garden World in Smyrna in 2014. The most popular tree themes include “country,” “denim and ice” and “holiday grand.”

For dozens of Delaware families, the holiday season isn't complete without a trip to Ronny's, and through the rest of the year, its retail nursery is among the largest in the state.

"It's just surreal in here," Milford resident Rick Burge told The News Journal in 2005. "I keep walking around in circles. It's hypnotic."

Ronny's origins can be traced to a wooden cart at Pine Tree Corner from which teenaged Ronny Burris sold produce. After more than a decade, he and his high school sweetheart, Glenda, opened Ronny's Market on 5 acres along Du Pont Parkway on the northern edge of Smyrna.

"I was bumbling around to make a dollar," Burris said of his early days in a 2008 interview. "I could have gone under at any time."

Christmas lights arranged as characters like Santa Claus and candles line the fences of the Christmas tree yard at Ronny’s Garden World in Smyrna in 2014.

He gradually introduced more garden and landscape materials to his inventory before making the decision to stop selling produce altogether, a decision he pointed to as a turning point.

The produce business, he said, was quirky and difficult. Eventually, the Burrises changed the store's name to Ronny's Garden World. Business took off when then-Gov. Pete du Pont reformed Delaware's banking laws. The changes brought more upper-middle-class families to the area who wanted to maintain a garden, Burris said.

In the late 1980s, Burris daughters Brenda Metts and Donna Staley joined the business, bringing its technology up to speed and eventually allowing Ronny and Glenda to retire. They also expanded Ronny's holiday offerings to its current expanse of themed Christmas trees, massive lit-up displays and other decorations large and small.

"They've taken it to another level," Burris said in 2005.

Customers walk through the Christmas tree room at Ronny’s Garden World in Smyrna in 2014.

Burris, a lifelong Clayton resident who spent winters in Key Largo, Florida, died in August at age 80.

"He enjoyed fishing, playing cards, eating crabs and entertaining," his obituary reads. "But he always had a smile on his face when family dropped in for a glass of wine at happy hour out on his patio."

Ronny's Garden World in Smyrna shown in 2007 during the winter holiday season.

Ronny's typically closed from New Year's Day to mid-February, a tradition Burris started to give himself and his employees a break after the busy holiday season. Metts and Staley, the current owners, have not commented publicly on the decision to permanently close.

The store has taken down its social media accounts. In the days after Christmas, customers posted photos on social media of barren sections of Ronny's where dozens of Christmas trees and plants previously stood.

"I am so sorry the hear the sad news," wrote Sally Orth. "Ronny’s was part of my life. All my landscaping and spring, summer and fall flowers were bought there. I will miss looking forward to my visits."

"Ronny’s nursery was an iconic Delaware landmark that will surely be missed," Michael Arant wrote.

Contact Brandon Holveck at bholveck@delawareonline.com. Follow him on Twitter @holveck_brandon.