In this episode, Ellie and Betsy speak with Dimitri Gatanas of Urban Garden Center LLC. Dimitri discusses his Greek roots, tells of uprooting an 18 foot tree, and talks about what it means to be an “urban” business, along with how UGC strives to be a positive part of its Harlem community.
The Urban Garden Center is owned and operated by the Gatanas family. They have lived in the city since the 1940s. I have had the pleasure of meeting several members of the family when stopping by, learning pieces of their history from both mother Aspasia and her sons. Dimitri told me that the Urban Garden Center has been around almost as long as his family – since the 1960s – though it has gone through a few iterations. They originally opened on 89th Street, and then moved to 86th, and later to 102nd. In 2010, the sons discovered an empty lot underneath the train track, running from 116th to 117th Street, and converted it into its present day green oasis. Aspasia told me that when her boys came to her to say that they had found the perfect space to move their long-established family garden center, she thought they were insane. “It had no electricity, no running water, no bathroom and I was supposed to smile and say, ‘great.'” She then went on to say, “When you’re around this long people take notice, no matter where you go.”
Click the links below to hear more of their amazing story!