On the corner of Biscayne and El Jobean Road, a 17-acre vacant lot will be turned into a sanctuary for gardeners and patio-enthusiasts alike. 

Gardening giant MRT is getting a second, and much larger, location. Ace Hardware will be sharing the lot with the Venice-based company, said David Taylor, one of the owners of MRT Lawn and Garden Center. 

About a quarter of MRT's customer base lives in North Port, Englewood East and Charlotte County, Taylor said, so the new location will be a shorter drive for many. 

The 20,000-square-foot garden center and hardware store is anticipated to complete construction by late summer 2019. 

"There will be 15,000 square feet of mezzanine space for pottery, shade plants, patio furniture, fountains, water features, and stone statuary," Taylor said in a press statement. "The accompanying plant yard will feature hundreds of varieties of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees that will all thrive in this particular region of Florida."

The Venice location had gone through multiple owners prior to Taylor and his wife, Elizabeth, establishing the garden hub in 2003. Previously being a cattle and citrus rancher, when the 2.5-acre facility went for sale, he saw opening the garden center as a "natural fit."

"I've been in the agricultural business my whole life," Taylor said. "There's a sense of accomplishment when something you planted grows and matures." 

The Venice store currently has around 40 full-time employees. Taylor anticipates bringing in roughly the same amount of people for his Port Charlotte location, all who love plants and preferably if they have Florida plant knowledge to help novice gardeners move on from their silk plants. 

"That's the difference of going to an independent plant store because our people have the knowledge and can recommend a proper plant," Taylor said. 

The most popular plant Taylor sells at MRT is the arboricola trinette, a yellowish-green, leafy shrub that "is a South Florida gardener's dream plant," the South Florida Plant Guide states.

"It's one of the hardiest plants we sell," Taylor said.  

The original MRT Lawn and Garden Center, located at 5175 Englewood Road in Venice, is celebrating its 16th year in business. 

E-mail: Lhardaway@sun-herald.com


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