The buyer says it won't get into the plant business.
Carolina Nurseries now belongs to a North Charleston industrial conglomerate that has no interest in maintaining it as a plant farm.
ZZ Acquisitions LLC, an affiliate of The InterTech Group Inc., acquired the 686-acre property Friday during a public auction at the Berkeley County Courthouse after no one stepped forward to outbid the debt it was owed by the nearly century-old business.
ZZ Acquisitions loaned the sprawling nursery along U.S. Highway 52 about $12 million in March 2009 to keep the financially struggling business on firm ground, but the sluggish economy proved the nursery's uprooting. The once-thriving business was unable to repay the loan or find other financial backers, so the lender foreclosed on the property.
Berkeley County this week considered buying the site for nearly $17 million, but council members nixed the idea of putting the county in the real estate business.
After the gavel fell Friday, nursery president J. Guy said, "We're closed." He referred other questions to the new owner as he left the courtroom.
ZZ Acquisitions already is in talks with other parties to either buy the 250-employee facility and keep it operating as a nursery or purchase its perishable inventory of millions of plants, said Robert Johnston, executive vice president at InterTech.
"Our objective is not to operate a nursery," Johnston said. "It is not a business we are comfortable with because we have never operated a nursery. The best outcome would be to sell the nursery as a going concern."
Short of a buyer to keep the plant business blooming, Johnston said the remaining inventory would be sold as quickly as possible.
"This isn't the outcome we were looking for," he said. "This was a last recourse."
The nursery industry overall has taken a hit from the prolonged housing downturn.
While Johnston called talks with interested parties "very fluid," he also deemed the site "a wonderful piece of property."
It is highly visible along heavily traveled Highway 52. It is bordered by rail, water and sewer and sits just outside the town limits of Moncks Corner.
Most of it is zoned for agricultural use. The northern end, which is now devoid of plants, is zoned for heavy industry.