Friday morning, 90-year-old Dan Griffen contemplated what his mother, Augusta, would think if she could see the family floral operation during the bustle of Valentine’s Day 2014.
Dan’s great-granddaughters, Molly and Malia, were building floral bouquets. Daughter Amy filled telephone orders via a cordless headset. Mylar balloons attached to baskets of candy and flowers touted messages of love. Orders generated from the Internet piled up in the “to be filled” basket. Five vehicles were out on the road, making deliveries.
Four generations, working side by side. What has held the family together for the 98 years since three Griffen brothers – Merritt, Joe and Vernon - first started a flower business in Hannibal? Dan Griffen didn’t hesitate:
He pumped his fist to his chest. “Love.”
It’s a tradition for the Griffens to gather together during holidays for a feast, and at Valentine’s Day to help out with the business.
Some work year round in the shop located on St. Mary’s Avenue next door to where the old Adam’s HyKlas store used to be. Others have branched out into other occupations. Dan’s oldest son, Joe, lives and works in Bettendorf, Iowa, and was back in Hannibal to make deliveries Friday. Son Rich works side by side with his father Dan Griffen on a day-to-day basis, as does Amy Merrell and her husband Doug, and Rich’s sister, Dorothy Dexheimer. Granddaughter Jessica Spurgeon, who was working the cash register on Friday, is general manager of the Hannibal Courier-Post.
On Valentine’s Day, they all bring food for a carry-in lunch, served after the orders are caught up. “That’s the only reason I show up,” Rich Griffen, Dan’s son, said with a chuckle.
Friday morning deposited a few inches of snow on the ground, which somewhat complicated delivery. The back driveway at the shop was iced over, so they couldn’t back the vans up to the door as usual. They took special care to protect the flowers from the bite of winter’s cold, and then hand-loaded them into the warm and waiting vehicles.
Work began on the Valentine rush a week ago, when family members and employees pre-packed greenery in bunches to be stored in the refrigerator. They worked into the evening Thursday building bouquets, and then work resumed again early Friday. “We can’t do it all in one day,” Dan Griffen said.
The most popular flower is the rose, Dan Griffen said, and they make up bouquets of a dozen and half dozen in advance. “Mixed bouquets are the slowest to make, because they use one of each color. We did a bunch of those on Thursday,” he said.
“Years ago Valentine’s Day was nothing like it is today,” the family patriarch said. “We used to sell novelty plans with hearts.”
The flower shop was located at the southwest corner of Third and Broadway for many years. “Rich and I started looking for another building when parking was at a premium downtown. One year I did an inventory just for fun, and there were more than 200 businesses downtown.” A lot of their business was from people walking into the shop, and parking was difficult.
“We moved out here the year before the 1993 flood,” Dan Griffen said. They converted an old house into a storefront. “We thought we had a lot of spare room when we came here. We built a refrigerator in an old bedroom. It is filled with roses right now.”
Dan Griffen said Friday’s snow was a challenge, but it certainly wasn’t the worst Valentine’s Day weather he’s seen. “One year we had four inches of slush downtown. We had to paddle around in that slush, but we got through it OK.”
Friday morning, the weather was on their minds, however. Dan Griffen’s son Joe said he had a little trouble delivering on Fairway Drive, because there was snow over ice. And when Dan Griffen picked up an order to fill at 1500 Montana, he said, “That’s a great address - at the top of a hill.”
More than once on Friday, young family members passed a bouquet past Dan Griffen for approval. His nod let them know that the flowers were ready for delivery.
He said the younger generations are doing a good maintaining the reputation of quality that he and his wife, LaVon, established during their years together in the business. “I kinda hold back sometimes. I have to bite my tongue. But they are doing all right,” Dan Griffen said.