In conversation with Bob Gilmore of Gilmore's Greenhouse at the corner of Niles Road and Virginia Avenue, with whom I frequently have pleasant chats, I learned that this is the 70th year of his business. I congratulated him and his family on their success.
Gilmore appeared to have enjoyed putting his hands in the soil to grow plants since his early years.
Bob Gilmore's father worked in a large greenhouse in the Cleveland area. When he moved to Warren in 1942, he bought what is now Gilmore's Greenhouse and Florist shop.
Four years later, he died. At the time, Bob was a 16-year-old student in the Howland school district. He was given every Friday off and any other day he needed, as long as he kept his grades up, to work in the family business.
Taking over the business at that early age, Bob had charge of the greenhouse. He learned on the job by studying on his own, through attending The Ohio State University Extension Service seminars and reading periodic publications. He attended trade shows and communicated with his colleagues in the area, specifically Dave Adgate.
In the meantime, Bob's mother was working in the florist shop designing arrangements. In those early days, flowers ordered for patients in the hospital were a much bigger part of the business.
They had a delivery truck, which they bought for $700 or $800. They would drop off orders at homes along the way to the hospital. Everybody drove the trucks for their personal transportation as well as for the business, Bob said.
"You didn't have to worry about covering expenses like you do today."
One hot summer day in those early years, he went to the Sanitary Dairy for some ice cream. When his friend behind the counter asked if there was anything else he wanted, he said, "Yes, I want a date with that girl," pointing to a blonde working there.
He got the date, and eventually he and Norma were married. They had eight children, three of whom now work with their dad in the business.
They are as personable as he is. John is the vice president of the business, operating manager and in charge of maintenance. Jamie is secretary and orders the plants. Jennifer is treasurer and handles the business end of things.
The knowledgeable daughters help customers find particular plants, and they are not above carrying a big bag of mulch out to the car, too.
Over the years, the trends in the flower business have been set significantly by California, Bob says. Magazines and movies influence taste and style.
In the '40s, during World War II, he sold seeds for Victory gardens and pots of cemetery flowers. During the '60s, many varieties of flowers were developed, impatiens among them. In the '70s, houseplants and cactus were stylish.
Annuals have always been popular. Perennials come and go.
The flowers in hanging baskets, those in 3-inch pots and geraniums are patented varieties he buys from a wholesaler in Cleveland. Some of them come from Israel and Central America.
Climate change has influenced people's choices of flowers, as well. Chrysanthemums are not as much in demand as they were some years ago.
Warm weather now lasts so long summer flowers prevail. Some of them last until November, making the traditional fall flowers less desirable. In the years from the '30s through the '50s, there were many 100-degree days, he remembered. Now there are fewer, but the summer season lasts longer.
When I asked him how he keeps up with what the public wants, he replied, "I guess I can see trends coming." He must have something in his mind that is the equivalent of a crystal ball.
It is remarkable that a small family business like Gilmore's Greenhouse could prosper as it has during all the ups and downs of the climate and the economy. This is due in large part to the constancy of the family, and Bob's love of the business.
"I don't have to be here," he says, "I wouldn't be here if I didn't like it."
And we in the community like him in return.