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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Raska’s Business and Reputation Keep Growing

Contributing Writer

STILL ON THE JOB: Charlie Raska at his Raska’s Nursery in Broken Arrow. Now at 84 years old, he continues to provide excellent service to his customers.

GTR Newspapers photo

As it moves ahead into yet another year of operation, a landmark Broken Arrow business just keeps growing… literally.

Charles E. Raska, along with his wife and partner Shirley, founded the operation in 1953 to provide lawnmowing and landscape services, primarily to homes and businesses in Tulsa. Expansion came in the mid-1960s with the opening of Raska’s Nursery at 824 S. Main St. in Broken Arrow.

To call that location remote would be an understatement. “We were alone out here,” he says. There was nothing much around us.”

That situation changed dramatically with the opening of the Broken Arrow Expressway which helped transform the once sleepy little town into one of the Southwest’s fastest growing metropolitan areas. And there, eager to help newcomers sink their roots in his hometown, was Charlie Raska.

The business still provides landscape services but at the age of 84, Raska devotes his time to overseeing the nursery that features trees, shrubs, bushes, vegetable plants and a dazzling array of flowers along with gardening chemicals. He says he enjoys visiting with and serving several generations of Broken Arrowans but admits he gave serious thought to retiring and closing the business at the end of this year’s growing season. The death of his wife, however, led to a reconsideration of that decision.

“I was going to retire so we could spend more time together,” he says. “With her gone, I would have been sitting home alone. I sure didn’t want to do that.” Then, with a wink, he adds, “Actually, I am just following doctor’s orders. He told me to keep working and I would last a lot longer.”

The reasons for Raska’s long-time success are almost as varied as the plants and flowers his nursery has for sale. He gives much of the credit to his employees who “do a hard job and are really good people who have been around quite a while.”

Minnie Dub offers another reason. She is quoted on the Internet as saying, “Tons of options, friendly staff, and they even insisted on helping me carry my flowers to the car and helped me load up. Wonderful, old-fashioned service that even made paying a nice experience.”

Jon Lewis echoed the feelings of many when he said, “Their plants and vegetables are as good as you can hope to find. But, even more valuable is their knowledge of what grows best around here. If they don’t have something you need, they don’t hesitate to tell you where to get it.”

Carol Hanewinkel pointed to the number of unique plants the nursery offers saying, “Every flower and plant was beautiful. I found some unique flowers I’ve never seen before. My nieces and I loved it!”

Long-time friend and fellow Broken Arrow icon, Dr. Clarence G. Oliver, Jr., called Raska a legend.

“How I became acquainted with Charlie and his business is a story of its own,” Oliver notes. “The new nursery, with its displays of trees, beautiful green plants, hanging baskets and flowering shrubs was especially important to me because that place of beauty was a bright spot in my day during a very critical time in my life. The garden-like atmosphere was a healing stop for me as I went by the location on my twice-daily one-mile walk from home to office and office to home while recovering from a serious heart attack at age 35.”

Oliver says he had been advised by a cardiology team that it was unlikely he would live to be 40 years old.

“I convinced myself that an early death was not going to happen and I began an exercise program that initially included walking as much as time and circumstances would permit. That regimen took me by the very spot where the Raskas chose to open their new business,” he says. “If he was in sight, I knew I could expect ‘Hello, Buddy!’ and ‘How are you doing today?’ greeting and question.

“That personal touch is simply how Charlie did business. He still does so,” Oliver notes. “My family and I have been very blessed to have known Charlie and his family for five decades. He is a treasured friend.”

Updated 05-22-2018

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