WEST MILTON — For nearly a century, one local business has provided the community with countless floral arrangements for funerals, weddings, school dances, holidays and other special occasions.
Patterson’s Flowers is celebrating 90 years of continuous operation and owner Bob Menker is celebrating his 54th year in the business.
Opened in 1926 by Robert Ewing Jennings, the store has changed hands only twice. Once in 1947, when it was sold to Harold “Pat” Patterson, and again in 1975, when Menker took over.
“I have worked there over half the business’ life,” Menker noted. He started working in the shop as a high school junior in 1962 — Patterson’s is the only place he’s ever worked.
Jennings, the son and grandson of two local doctors, opened the store and greenhouse in 1926. He lived in the house behind the shop and specialized in rock garden plants and landscaping, Menker said. He also served as the postmaster.
When he retired to Florida in 1947, the business passed to Patterson. Originally from Indianapolis, Patterson had worked in flower shops and greenhouses in Indiana and Dayton before World War II. Wanting to get back into the business after the war, he bought the shop and moved into the house with his wife, Mary.
According to Menker, Patterson’s first few months in the business were tough until a popular local mail carrier died, and the people on his route ordered an arrangement for his funeral. Patterson created a standing mailbox out of flowers, which was so popular that business started to pick up soon thereafter.
“He always credited that one arrangement for saving his business because after that people started ordering flowers from Patterson’s,” Menker said.
Patterson married Dolly Smith, herself a local entrepreneur, after his first wife passed away. She owned a beauty shop and Ross Memorial Home in Pleasant Hill. When the Pattersons retired in 1975, they sold the business to Menker.
After 89 years in the same location, Patterson’s relocated to 53 N. Miami St. last year. The original building was demolished and Patterson’s moved uptown into an old Victorian house.
The flower business has changed a lot over the years and Menker has seen a lot of trends come and go. Christmas, Easter, and Memorial Day used to be big flower holidays, he said, and more people used to plant large gardens. With the rise of big box stores, Patterson’s also moved away from the greenhouse and garden plant business.
“Styles change — we used to do hundreds of corsages for Easter and Mothers Day. Today seldom have more than two or three orders,” he said. “Even funeral customs have changed from long viewing times to short memorial service with cremations more common.”
Reflecting current trends in the industry, Patterson’s now offers more silk flowers and memorial items, garden stones, wind chimes and afghans.
While some styles have fallen out of popularity, Patterson’s remains a full service florist offering flowers for any occasion, including weddings.
At their meeting on Jan. 10, the West Milton village council passed a resolution commending Menker and his wife, Charlotte, for their decades of providing service to the community.
“When I was in the military, I frequently had to call back to Patterson’s to have flowers delivered to my mom for Mother’s Day or birthdays or deaths in the family. … The customer service is always exemplary,” Mayor Scott Fogle said. “I would like to thank Bob and Charlotte for all their dedication to this community.”
Reach Cecilia Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.