CLAREMORE — The flower roots are 75 years long at Dorothy’s Flowers.
The downtown Claremore business is celebrating a 75th anniversary this month. It was opened by Dorothy Benet in February 1945. Gertrude and Ken Riddle became the shop’s second owners in 1975, and the baton was passed to current owner Holly Thompson in 1999.
Thompson, asked if she feels a sense of pride in steering the shop into a 75th year of existence, said, “I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility, as if I’m not just the owner, but I’m a caretaker. I want the shop to be here for another 75 years, so I feel like I’m just the owner at this time, and I pray that the next caretaker feels the same way someday.”
Thompson has been busy in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day (it’s the shop’s biggest day of the year; Mother’s Day is a close second), but she hit the pause button long enough to answer questions related to the store’s anniversary.
Thompson has been on board for almost a third of the shop’s history. Was flower shop owner her career plan? Raised in upstate New York, she attended college to study equine management after moving to Oklahoma.
“I had worked in a flower shop in my hometown before and decided that would be a good part-time job,” she said. “I was giving riding lessons and teaching classes for Oral Roberts University when we decided to have children. We didn’t want them in day care. I had met Gertrude Riddle, the previous owner, through the flower shop I worked at in Tulsa, and she approached me about buying Dorothy’s and, well, here we are.”
Daughters Sierra, a 20-year-old Rogers State University sophomore, and Natalie, a 17-year-old junior at Claremore High School, essentially grew up in the store. They had cribs and play pens in the shop.
“I’ve always joked that everybody who works here is their adopted aunt or grandmother,” Thompson said. “Everybody who worked here had a hand in raising our girls.”
One of the staffers, Sue Montgomery, is a link to every owner in the shop’s history. Montgomery said the original owner provided flowers for her wedding. She has worked for the past two owners.
“Sue Montgomery is not just my employee. She is my friend,” Thompson said. “I think of her as a second mom. She is my family. She has been there for me every step of the way since the first day I walked in the shop. She has taught me so much about the floral business, but moreso, she has taught me how to be a true Christian. She is the kindest, most honest, dedicated person.”
Thompson is rolling back prices to 1945 as part of a 75th anniversary promotion. Once per month, the store will choose a Facebook or Instagram follower and that person be given the opportunity to make a purchase at 1945 prices.
Thompson fielded additional questions about the shop:
Maybe there are some days at the store you will never forget. Got any specifics?
One of the days I remember the most is 9/11. We all sat here with a little TV and just watched. I know that doesn’t have anything to do with the flower business, but it was just a day I’ll never forget. We were all here together and, although it was so far away, it seemed really close.
How much research did you have to do to figure out how much things cost in 1945 to accurately do the throwback price promotion?
I didn’t have to look too far. I have some tickets from years and years ago with things that people ordered and how much they cost, so actually I didn’t have to look anywhere. I know exactly what Dorothy charged for stuff.
What do you know about being the owner of a flower store that you didn’t know in 1999?
I know that even though I own the business, I do not work for myself. I work for every person who calls on the phone or walks to the door. I am here to serve them to make their happy day better or their sad day bearable.
Claremore has a nice little downtown that is still preserved. Thoughts?
In the last few years, downtown has really seen a resurgence of life. When I bought the shop a little over 20 years ago, I think it was only two businesses and the Claremore Progress (newspaper) on this block. A lot of the buildings were empty. Now, we have a wonderful selection and all different types of stores — boutiques, restaurants, you name it. It’s been awesome.”