The Hawthorne Nursery has provided South Bay residents with plants, fertilizers, and gardening supplies since 1927. The Nakai family has owned and operated the nursery for three generations.
In 1898, Minegusu Nakai immigrated from Japan to Vancouver. He soon migrated to the U.S. and found work on the Northern Pacific Railroad. By 1916 he was in Los Angeles and married. After a fire burned a restaurant he had opened on the Venice Pier, Nakai moved his family to Hawthorne to be close to friends. In 1927 he established a small nursery at 321 Ballona Avenue. By 1934, Ballona had become El Segundo Boulevard and business was good. The family began to purchase nearby tracts of land to expand the nursery.
During World War II, the Nakais were among the over 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans who were evacuated from the west coast and relocated to wartime incarceration camps. The Nakais were able to avoid wartime incarceration by working on a sugar beet farm in Colorado. They also had arranged for George Kirby, who owned a nearby nursery in Gardena, to lease their nursery while they were away. When the war ended, the Nakai family returned to Hawthorne and resumed the operation of the nursery.
In the 1950s, the Nakai family purchased additional land for the nursery. During this time, El Segundo Boulevard was widened. In 1959, the nursery moved to the previous location of the family home. Minegusu's sons, Jim and Mas, lived next to the family nursery on Grevillea Avenue, where they raised their families. In the late 1960s, Jim became a member of the Hawthorne Planning Commission, serving for twenty-five years. During this time, the nursery became a favorite place for residents to gather and discuss important community issues.
Today, the nursery is operated by members of the third generation of the Nakai family. The nursery boasts a large retail selection of indoor plants and the owners wholesale their products to nurseries across the state. Despite the rise of big-box retailers, the Hawthorne Nursery remains an enduring institution in the city.