By Jordan Killam Photos by Jeff Jones
Around Toledo, driving past empty strip mall plazas, “FOR RENT/SALE” signs and think that longevity in commerce is a distant memory. These businesses have prospered for over 100 years, demonstrating hard work, passion, patience and ingenuity.
Schramm Brothers Florists was located for many years at Cherry and Beacon streets. The near-downtown site was cleared for urban renewal in 1978, and the business moved to Renwyck Drive in South Toledo. The late Robert and Charlotte T. Schramm, were the fourth-generation owners to operate the family florist business founded in the 1870.
After the winter of 1978, the Schramms sold the shop in 1979 and retired to Delray Beach, Fla., where they lived until the early 1990s. The store has been sold again but remains in business, now in the Cricket West shopping Center at 3205 West Central Avenue, as Schramm’s Flowers.
Sandy Sack and Sue Roberts both left degree-earned positions and bought Schramm’s Flowers, one of the oldest businesses in Toledo, in 1993. Both women were relieved to escape the high-pressure demands of their former careers to work in the floral industry. Mistakes made in their old jobs could lead to disaster—company-wide computer system failure (Ms. Sack was a computer systems analyst) or even lives lost (Ms. Roberts was a registered nurse).
To most, leaving such illustrious careers to take over a storied business might have been too much of a challenge. However, the sisters have always carried with them an entrepreneurial spirit. Sisters Sandy and Sue began cultivating their entrepreneurial skills from a very young age, selling vegetables door-to-door that came from their aunt’s farm in West Toledo.
All it took was a bit of luck and a lot of good old-fashioned know-how. The venture was immediately successful. The sisters have managed to increase sales exponentially—with added improvement when Schramm’s moved to its West Toledo location. The store used to occupy a space at Cricket West, a shopping center on West Central Avenue. It has since moved to an adjacent shopping center and has a much larger retail space.
The sisters expanded Schramm’s gift selections, offering soaps, candles, aromatherapy scents, hooked rugs, Beanie Babies®, greeting cards, clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Word quickly spread about the unique gifts available at the store and customers began purchasing more flowers, enticed by what they saw during walk-in visits.
Ms. Sack and Ms. Roberts seldom arrange flower bouquets themselves, preferring instead to manage the shop’s operations, leaving arranging to their creative, design-oriented employees.
Most floral shops are owned by designers – and the focus is often not on running the business.
As the online flower market grew, the sisters knew they needed to make adjustments to the merchandise available in the store. Carrying well-loved brands like Alex and Ani, Lampe Berger, Vera Bradley, Gurgle Pots, Trollbeads, Crabtree & Evelyn, and Thymes have helped Schramm’s stay afloat. The store now carries unique clothing lines, many of which, the sisters are proud to report, are made in America.
When asked about Schramm’s in the olden days, the sisters reported that florists spent many days prior to Easter and Mother’s Day making corsages for women to wear to Sunday church services. Also, funeral arrangements were often so large that they and could not fit into the delivery vehicle, so they would have to be attached to the side of the truck. (see photo above)
Looking towards the future, Schramm’s will continue to offer flowers year-round, that were previously only available seasonally, as many florists have begun to do. Delivery methods have changed over time, from the horse-and-buggy to motorized transport. The sisters fully expect that someday, drones will replace manual delivery…And Schramm’s will continue to keep up with the times.