Two recessions, a world war, and a global pandemic - Ottawa's Turner Flowers has been there through it all. The Turner family has been serving the Ottawa community in one way or another for 85 years, and they don't plan on going anywhere soon.
It all began in 1936 when Ralph Turner started a greenhouse on his farm just outside of town. Forty years later, his son Lyle decided to expand that greenhouse to half an acre and used it to grow plants for his newly opened flower shop on 8th and Hickory. "When I was a kid, if we had a family wedding, my dad would do the flowers on the dining room table, and I thought that's how everybody's dad did it," said Lyle's son Shawn. Lyle eventually closed his shop in the 1980s, but he continued to grow and sell the flowers, fruit, and vegetables he grew in his garden. Shawn remembers helping his parents load their truck with flowers and fresh produce to sell at the farmer's market every week.
Since opening that August day in 2006, Turner Flowers has tripled its sales. The Turners supply floral arrangements for about 100 weddings and 250 funerals each year. "We've grown a whole lot. When we started in 2006, it was a true mom-and-pop shop," he said. "We've added and built and developed a team to where we now have 12 part-time and three full-time employees, so it's grown a bunch." Starting a new business in the mid-noughties was no easy feat, but Shawn credits the store's downtown location with keeping them afloat during the 2008 recession. "We love the downtown location. It's amazing how many casual shoppers we get through the door from in town and out of town both," he said.
More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a challenge to the store as flower supplies dwindled and Turner shut down for five weeks in March of 2020. But when the store reopened on Mother's Day, things were starting to look up. Flower supplies started going back up, and pandemic-era business practices like curbside deliveries were already something Turner staff were well-accustomed to. "We were doing non-contact deliveries before it was cool," Shawn joked. But on a more serious note, he pointed out the importance of his business during such a difficult time for so many people. "If people couldn't go to the hospital, or couldn't go to the nursing home, or couldn't take mom out to dinner for her birthday, they would send flowers," He said.
The Turner family has come a long way since Ralph started his greenhouse in 1936. Lyle is now partially retired, but he spends most of his time on his father's 80-acre farm, maintaining the greenhouse, growing succulents, and raising chickens. His wife Kathy still works at the store, and so does Shawn. The store celebrated its 15th year on Main Street last Sunday, but customers can celebrate with them all week with a corresponding special for each day: Thursday is Thinking of you Thursday, with $15 vase arrangements, Friday the store will have $15 wrapped bouquets, and Saturday all succulents will be 15 percent off. Small wrapped bouquets will also be five dollars all week.
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