Putting down roots: Local couple opens The Garden Center by AOS

Local couple Ricardo and Laura May Araya have branched out and made a longtime dream a reality with the opening of The Garden Center by AOS in Carthage. The couple has enjoyed watching their business blossom, especially during their recent grand opening on April 13.

The Arayas have been sowing the seeds of success for the past eight years, building their family business from the ground up. Ricardo and the expert AOS crew cover all things landscaping, gardening, and operations. Laura, sporting a background in communications, is able to handle all of the social media and marketing.

Putting down roots: Local couple opens Garden Center by AOS

The Arayas purchased the old Black Rock Winery property in December 2023 and repurposed the property to bring their vision to life. “We have been searching for the right property, and the old Black Rock Winery was the perfect fit,” said Laura. “It was also the perfect location in the middle of the county.”

What was once the tasting room now houses tools, chicken feed, bird feed, fertilizers, seeds, and pottery. The building that was used to ferment the wine, designed and constructed to hold humidity, is now the perfect tropical paradise for interior plants with the addition of skylights.

Inside and out, the property has become a wonderland of landscaping. “We wanted The Garden Center to serve as a showroom for Araya Outdoor Solutions,” Laura explained. “Ricardo constructed a fence line with all the different fences AOS can do. The retaining walls, pergola, grading, and gravel were all done by our landscaping crew. We built a beautiful waterfall feature with the help of Herve Bernier, a local landscaper who is an expert with water features.”

Putting down roots: couple opens The Garden Center by AOS

Laura and Ricardo met while Laura was teaching abroad in Ricardo’s hometown, Pacayitas, Costa Rica. According to Laura, Pacayitas is a very small, rural village, and most of the locals are farmers who cultivate sugar-cane and coffee. Ricardo was raised working in the sugar-cane and coffee fields, which sparked the start of his horticultural career.

When Ricardo “followed Laura home” to Southern Pines in 2013, he spoke very little English. He began working as a golf course maintenance employee at Pine Needles Resort. One day, while working on the golf course, he witnessed an older woman working in her yard, and he offered his assistance. She hired him for weekly yard maintenance, and Araya Outdoor Solutions was born.

Ricardo worked for a few more years at Pine Needles, and then at Penick Village, all while growing his landscaping business on the side. Over the years, Ricardo learned English and gained an appreciation for the community and local horticulture. By 2016, he had enough clients to work full-time for himself.

“Ricardo is very grateful for all the help and support he received along the way,” said Laura. “The support from other landscapers, realtors, contractors, and the community has enabled our business to grow and flourish.”

In an ongoing effort to support fellow North Carolina businesses, many of the products available at AOS are grown or produced in North Carolina. All of their perennial and annual plants come from North Carolina nurseries, their orchids are grown locally in Seagrove, and Carolina Pride poultry feed is produced by Coker Feed Mill in Goldsboro.

Putting down roots: Local couple opens The Garden Center by AOS Carthage

Since opening, AOS has become a one-stop shop for landscapers and hobby gardeners. In addition to a staggering variety of plants, trees, and shrubs, customers are reportedly pleased with high-quality mulch and soil, river rocks, flagstone, pavers, and tools.

The best parts for the Arayas, though, have been engaging with the community and spending time working as a family. Customers often see Araya’s daughters, Maisy (8) and Aden (5), behind the counter, helping with check-out or playing hide-and-seek games behind the trees.

“We love Moore County and are humbled by the overwhelming support and enthusiasm from the community,” said Laura. “We are so grateful that our girls are learning the value of hard work and that they enjoy being outside and learning about the plants. We are a family-owned business, so we love nothing more than seeing families come out to The Garden Center.”

In addition, the Arayas are proud supporters of Wander & Root Nature School. They have been supporting the school since its inception and sponsor its scholarship fund.

Laura and Ricardo are grateful to the staff who help keep AOS running. “None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication from our staff at Araya Outdoor Solutions and The Garden Center,” said Laura about the crew of 13. “We feel so fortunate and grateful to each of them.”

The Garden Center by AOS is located at 6652 US-15 501 HWY, Carthage, NC. To learn more, visit www.thegardencenterbyaos.com.

Feature photo: Ricardo and Laura May Araya.

~Article and photos by Sandhills Sentinel copy editor Abegail Murphy. 

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