A Life Made Of Family, Plants And A Game Of Chess

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After a day of manual labor spent among the green landscape and babbling brook that make up Rob McCombs' outdoor office, he plays chess.

Never mind that the babbling brook is a spa and the surrounding trees and shrubs, herbs and flowers are just his to care for until someone takes them home from Plant Fair, a man needs to unwind.

"I like to play chess on the computer because I like the challenge of always having to think of new strategies," McCombs said.

He plays 20-minute, timed games against online opponents.

His stepdad taught him to play when he was a teenager growing up in Peoria. They played together, not a lot, but enough that love for the challenging game stuck.

But chess is not the most important thing in McCombs' life.

The most important thing is his family -- his wife, Lisa, their 2 year old son Matthew and Matthew's 11 year old stepsister, Annie.

"I guess like most people, I would say my family is my greatest feat," McCombs said, blue eyes sparkling.

Meeting and marrying Lisa was all about timing.

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Rob McCombs

The couple first met over a sandwich at Cousins Subs. Dating the first time around wasn't meant to be, but a couple of years later, he asked her out again and sparks flew.

The couple were married, Easter Sunday 2004, against the lush landscape of Rob's work-a-day world.

Spring is the busiest season for a nursery. So, their honeymoon was brief, but when the season ended, the family celebrated at Disneyland.

Their son was born a year later, and happily for the McCombs, life will never be the same.

"My son changed my life completely," he said.

"It seems like he needs all of my attention in the evenings," McCombs said. He has found a way to make that time special. He sits and reads to his son.

Daughter Annie is at a somewhat more difficult age to connect with, but he said chess might provide a way.

"Family keeps you from wandering off alone in your thoughts," McCombs said. "They keep you grounded."

McCombs moved to Payson from the Valley when he was 22 to work with his father at the family owned and operated business, Plant Fair.

At first, he was a little apprehensive about working with his family, but his fears were unfounded.

"(My father) listens to me and I listen to him; we work very well together," he said.

Like the games of chess he enjoys, McCombs enjoys meeting the challenges of the nursery and spa profession.

"Every day is a new experience, one day I'll be delivering spas, the next day I'll be selling plants and the next I might be making repairs to someone's spa.

"Figuring out how things work comes naturally," he said.

My mom thought I might be an aircraft mechanic because I like to know how things work and I like to watch airplanes.

But life had a different plan. His first job at 16 led him to his father's profession.

Tip Top Nursery opened across the street from where he was living.

"I filled the last opening they had and I don't think they really wanted to hire me," he said. "There were 24 of us at the beginning. By the end of the summer I was one of six (original employees)."

It is that kind of dedication that keeps small businesses competitive with huge corporations, he said. "I think we do a good job here (at Plant Fair) because we are an experienced family business."

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