Business Buzz – June 2020

(Kathy Enzerink, Photographer)
Father-daughter duo Dan and Sarah McDonnell run McDonnell Nursery.

McDonnell Nursery
    Owner Dan McDonnell runs McDonnell Nursery with his daughter Sarah McDonnell and a dozen trusted employees. Dan’s father, Jack McDonnell, began the nursery in 1933, the lowest point in the Great Depression.
    Half the banks in the U.S. had failed and 25 percent of Americans were unemployed. Dan’s grandfather was a grower of cut flowers, especially carnations, on land he owned at 51st and Telegraph in Oakland.
    Dan said when his grandfather passed away in 1933 the family shifted to survival mode. Dan’s grandmother and her brother opened a florist shop and Jack, Dan’s father, started his nursery on the same land. That’s how the McDonnells survived the Great Depression. Both McDonnells say they fully expect the nursery to survive this pandemic.
    They moved the nursery to the Orinda location in 1978. Sarah and her sister were raised next door and grew up in Orinda. Few local businesses have had the same phone number for more than 50 years, not to mention patrons spanning generations.
    The combined experience of long-term employees who are familiar with Bay Area micro-climates paired with their specific knowledge base means no matter what garden questions come up, someone has tried-and-true answers and suggestions. Most staff members have knowledge about drought tolerant and deer resistant plants because their entire career has been in the retail nursery business. Different staff members have developed specific areas of expertise such as perennials, succulents, roses, annuals, house plants, trees and shrubs.
    Because the nursery has been in business for more than 85 years, the staff has developed relationships with growers and suppliers throughout the West Coast. Beginning this summer, customers can schedule professional garden consultations at their homes to help plan a new garden.
    In addition, their gift shop provides all kinds of products, including seasonal displays. Delivery is free for orders over $50 in Orinda and Moraga with competitive pricing for deliveries to most other East Bay locations.
    McDonnell Nursery is at 196 Moraga Way. Call 925-254-3713, email or go to Hours during COVID-19 are 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wed. – Sun. After sheltering-in-place restrictions are lifted hours are 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.

(Contributed Photo)
(L-R) At Farmers Insurance in Orinda’s Village Square, Antonio Banuelos-Cruz, office manager; Jessie Banuelos, owner; John Manrique and Roberto Zamora, agency producers.

Farmers Insurance Orinda
    Jessie Banuelos, owner of Farmers Insurance Orinda, took her first customer service job for a Farmers agent in Orinda when she was a freshman at UC Berkeley. Insurance has been Banuelos’ career choice ever since.
    Banuelos’s time in Orinda came full circle in 2017 when she acquired the Farmers Insurance office in Village Square. For the past 20-plus years, she has focused on providing insurance to clients in the following categories: multi-family, HOAs, strip malls, office and industrial buildings, small business owners such as dentists, retail stores, restaurants and engineers.
    Her staff consists of John Manrique and Roberto Zamora, agency producers, and Antonio Banuelos-Cruz, office manager. Every employee is licensed in property, casualty, life and health insurance. Banuelos is a designated Certified Insurance Counselor.
    “We all continue our insurance education through training, classes and seminars,” said Banuelos. “For example, the right insurance coverage can save your paycheck from being garnished for 10 years or having a lien placed on your property because you were underinsured.”
    The agency is calling local business clients to review insurance policies to reduce premiums during COVID-19.
    “If there are community events we can support with hands-on participation or donations, we welcome the opportunity to be there – just give us a call,” said Zamora.
    Banuelos sits on the board of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) East Bay and is president-elect of the Women’s Auxiliary. Both organizations work together to support each other through collaboration, education and building business relationships. A mother of four grown young men and bonus mom to three more, somehow Banuelos finds time to compete in cross fit competitions, enjoys hiking with girlfriends and cooking with her husband, Alden.
    Farmers Insurance is at 324 Village Square, but for now the best way to reach them is by phone at 925-258-1010 or by email at To learn more, go to They serve clients in Orinda, Walnut Creek, Oakland, Richmond and Hercules. Business hours are 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Mon. – Fri., Sat. and Sun. by appointment.

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