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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Preparations were in full swing to get the building ready for opening day, and everything was starting to take shape. The front windows were covered, as everything was being completed out of the public’s view. Before my father became an electrician he was a carpenter, and those skills were serving him well now. Besides his regular job, he was working many extra hours building design tables, display fixtures, and cold rooms that would later be converted into refrigerators. Mom stayed busy stocking the shelves with vases, wires, ribbons, and polyethylene (plastic) flowers. (Like carpeting, plastic flowers were a big hit in the sixties!) Her family sent boxes full of materials and non-perishable goods to help with the start up.

The local newspaper heard of my parents’ plans to open a new business, and so they wrote up a story. This was a big deal for a small town to be getting a new business. When the story published, the arrogant and pompous old man came to visit. He never apologized to my mother for talking down to her as he had; he was there to make her an offer. He proposed that together they form a partnership in which they would combine the family names for the new business, with my mother acting as the location manager. My mother’s answer to his proposal was swift and immediate. She grabbed a broom and chased him out the door and down the street, yelling at him never to come back!

With the hard work of my parents and help from my mother’s family, everything moved along according to schedule, and the doors were opened for business at the newest florist, Cook Floral, in Ravenswood, West Virginia just in time for Mother’s Day 1964. The new venture was very well received by the community, and support was better than anyone had even anticipated. Her next hurdle would be to become a member of FTD.

In November 1909, at a meeting held in Chicago, Illinois the ground work was laid for an organization of retail florists, which would become known as FTD. Most people may be familiar with their Mercury® Logo (first introduced in 1914), which is still in use today (changed from the original, though still featuring the god Mercury) and known around the world. The Florists’ Telegraph Delivery Association (as it was first known) was the first formal organization for retail florists, and gave them control over sending and receiving floral wire orders over a long distance. This early organization was a cooperative for the florists, and had strict standards and rules for its members. You could not become a member, nor retain membership if your business didn’t continually meet the expectations of the organization. This covered things like assuring the quality and freshness of the flowers as well as the timeliness of deliveries, staffing with qualified professional floral designers, and the handling of customer complaints to name but a very few. If you had the Mercury® logo on your business, it assured customers of higher standards, and became the symbol for quality that consumers shopping for flowers would seek out and depend on. Like so many other things that have changed over time, so has the significance of the Mercury® logo and what it represents. FTD is still a large organization in the business of selling flowers and floral products, but it is no longer cooperatively owned by its members, and their standards have become much less rigid, allowing them to compete with other companies vying for the same piece of the floral pie in the US.

In the sixties FTD was still cooperatively owned, and still enforced their strict standards. Cook Floral would be required to be in business for at least one year before they could even make an application to join. The local competitor, however, was a member, and was well known within the organization and around the state by other member florists. Cook Floral, which was also the name of the other family members’ shops were also well known within the organization, and throughout West Virginia, but Mom would still have to meet the requirements the same as anyone else.

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