‘Flower Power,’ for two Sault businesswomen, is not a cultural memory from the 1960s.
It’s what they do for a living, and they excel at it.
Gudrun Schatzler has been an employee at Mann Florist since 1980, and Shirley Richards has been a florist for 45 years in total.
The two purchased Mann Florist in December, 1998.
The business was established by Victor and Lucy Mann in 1902 at its original location at 119 Huron Street.
Like many long-standing businesses in Sault Ste. Marie, Mann Florist is, in some ways, a museum and a landmark.
The well-worn Victor Mann Florist sign from the original Huron Street location still hangs, as a tribute to Mann and the store’s longevity, at Mann Florist’s rear entrance on King Street.
The store’s front entrance and facade, facing Queen Street East, is now something of an historical treasure itself, in existence since the 1960s and familiar for its ‘wine rack’ appearance, with an array of small holes in the metal framing which surrounds the Mann Florist lettering.
The upper floor formerly housed a dental office, and is now an apartment.
Victor and Lucy Mann’s son Ron purchased the business in 1947, with his siblings helping out as employees.
Ron moved it from Huron Street to its present location at 324 Queen Street East when the International Bridge and Bridge Plaza was built in 1962.
The two-storey Queen Street building, current co-owner Shirley said, was specially designed and built by a Toronto architect, in what was then an empty lot, to house the new Mann Florist location.
The shop was sold to another owner, who in turn sold it to Shirley and Gudrun in 1998.
Among the highlights of Shirley and Gudrun’s career was their floral decoration of the stage when famous classical guitarist Liona Boyd came to town.
“We were one of the sponsors of the Sault Symphony Orchestra,” Gudrun recalled.
“Liona Boyd performed at Central United Church, and Frank Gardi asked us if we wanted to decorate, so we said ‘okay, fine.’ We got to meet her, she’s quite a lovely lady,” Gudrun said.
“She was very down to earth,” Shirley recalled.
Another highlight was providing floral centrepieces at banquets for athletes participating in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts when the curling event came to the Sault.
“That was really special. The people who organized the Scotties were professional event people who are hired on the national level. They’ve got their own ideas and their own props, they don’t need anybody local, so when we got the opportunity to showcase ourselves, that was really something,” Gudrun said.
The ladies have kept it modern, adding a Mann Florist website, Facebook page and blog.
“When we first bought it, we didn’t want to hear about computers…but we bit the bullet and computerized,” Shirley chuckled.
Shirley credits the continuing longevity and success of Mann Florist to the providing of good product and good service she and Gudrun have maintained since 1998.
“We keep abreast of new trends…floral designing has changed since I started, there’s a diversity in flowers beyond roses, carnations, daisies. Now, there are so many new flowers on the market,” Shirley said.
“Ironically, even in busy times, I find being a florist relaxing,” Shirley said.
“The finished product, most times, is gratifying. It’s really gratifying to do an arrangement for a customer and have them call you and thank you, or take it from you at the front counter and say ‘this is perfect, it’s beautiful.’”
“It’s the process of creating something, and I like interacting with people. I enjoy having customers come in and say ‘this is the kind of floral arrangement I want, do you understand what I mean?’ and I do understand what they mean!” Gudrun smiled.
Weddings, of course, are big business for Mann Florist (especially through May to November).
Floral arrangements for funerals are not as common these days, as many families who have lost a loved one now request friends donate to a certain charity or organization in lieu of flowers, but Gudrun said she and Shirley feel they are easing, in a small way, the sadness of grieving families who still order flowers for funerals.
Valentine’s Day is a lucrative time for Mann Florist, but the biggest is Mother’s Day.
“You don’t want to forget mother,” Shirley smiled.