Danielle and Robb Stewart. Photography courtesy of THE MUSTARD SEED MARKET
It snowed four inches on the day that Danielle and Robb Stewart opened their roadside garden stand outside of Blowing Rock. (It was May, but this is the mountains.) The stand’s makeshift walls — blue tarps rolled down over chicken wire — did little to contain the warmth from the one kerosene heater burning in the middle of the concrete floor. With their 5-month-old bundled up and strapped to her back, Danielle wondered, “What the heck have we done?”
What the heck they had done was walked away from a house in Charlotte and two solid careers — Robb in chemical processing equipment sales, Danielle in commercial design — moved into an old trailer in the mountains, and purchased a business selling plants by the side of U.S. Highway 321.
Before the move, Robb’s job had often had him on the road, and the couple had been thinking about how they could spend more time together as a family. He had a background in agricultural business; she’d been bitten by the gardening bug. “Our heart was always for the ground, for farmland,” Robb says. Still, there was a lot to learn.
Thirty-one years later, business is booming. The market offers hard-to-find plants like dwarf ginkgoes, icebreaker fir trees, and up to 70 varieties of Japanese maples, plus vintage furniture and oddities — like the antique doors that Danielle collects, which Robb and other welders turn into garden benches. Over the years, the pair added floral design and landscaping services and, in 2022, opened a home decor shop in Blowing Rock proper.
The original roadside garden stand has bloomed into two acres of trees, shrubs, and greenhouses. The blue tarp walls have been replaced by antique doors, windows, and barn wood. “It’s loosely a building,” Danielle jokes. But if they were to build a new one — one that could better keep out the weather and contain the love and charm that burst from this roadside mountain market — it wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be the Mustard Seed Market.
To commemorate our 90th anniversary, we’ve compiled a time line that highlights the stories, contributors, and themes that have shaped this magazine — and your view of the Old North State — using nine decades of our own words.