Palace of Flowers has always been a family business. Two families in over 70 years.
the current owner, Karen OrlickiShe was always around with plants and flowers at the family home in Indiana 2. “I was at 4-H. So that was a start. We had a big garden with peppers, tomatoes. My father had his roses.” Her father, Stanleynurtured and cultivated the roses and cared for them with a lot of natural fertilizer (fish parts).
“We walked along Lake Michigan with buckets to pick up dead fish. Can you imagine kids doing that today?” said Karen. The fertilizer made some spectacular roses. “We knew all the varieties of roses in the garden.” She was well informed.
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Her love of flowers grew into a business. She started working at the Palace of Flowers in 1982 and then bought it in 1990.
The family stays involved. Her brother, mike, does repair work and light bulb replacement. Her sister Diane Notteboom comes for big holidays. Karen employs another designer and a supplier.
Always wanted to have a shop? “Yeah, if I couldn’t do it here, I would have expected to move to a big city and get a job.” She wanted to manage and create. Karen got her wish.
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Karen took flower design classes and loved being creative. For them it is an art. “It’s a pleasure” to create and share this. She loves to be part of people’s lives.
The disadvantage? “It’s still a business. Sometimes it’s seven days a week. It’s not a hobby. During the holiday season from November to Easter, the shop is very busy. Then it’s quiet,” she says.
There is also competition from large department stores, supermarkets and online sales. Karen could name six flower shops that have closed in recent years. Unfortunately, it’s a nationwide trend. From 2000 to 2011, there was a roughly 37% drop in stores, according to the Society of American Florists.
Karen added that big box stores don’t deliver. That makes a big difference.
The first chapter of Palace began with Joseph Labuzienski. Joe helped out in an uncle’s flower shop on Western Avenue and sold insurance and real estate. During World War II, his writing skills (thanks to filling out insurance forms) made him work in military offices. After the war he worked in a liquor store and then opened the flower shop in 1948.
His brother came later Henry. The store was located at 2409 Lincoln Way W., South Bend. Right there on the corner of Olive and Lincoln Way.
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The brothers married sisters. Joe was married Klara and Hank married Maria. Later, Joe retired and Hank and Marcia ran the shop. Hank later died and Clara continued to run the shop until it was sold to Karen.
Joe’s son Tom remembers those days. The store was in the middle of an old-fashioned neighborhood. Mersits Grocery Store and Tuesley’s Pharmacy on the other corner. ice cream around the block. There were neighborhood churches in every direction. “Father loved connecting with people. He loved delivering the flowers for a church wedding and showing the bride how to hold the flowers.”
Tom remembers delivering flowers when he was in elementary school over the long holidays. “On Valentine’s Day or Easter, the whole family worked. Every mother had to have a corset for Mother’s Day. My father was successful in business.”
The corner was bought and the building demolished. In 1994 Karen built a new store at 3901 Lincoln Way W.
Karen said it has retained its neighborhood feel and has a steady customer base. During the pandemic, the store has been busy with deliveries. “People couldn’t attend a funeral or visit someone; They turned to florists. My phone rang non-stop for several months,” she said. “I am blessed to be in this business.”
She’s sure she’ll stick with it.
A person who deserves a few more words.
Geraldine “Gerry” Dickey, 93, died in May. She retired after 55 years of service as a secretary at the South Bend Tribune. She was the secretary of the publishing house. She was an institution.
She had to endure being close to the newsroom and the gang of villains that occupied this space. Sort of like life near the circus, but she took it well.
Gerry was organized and helpful to those who never got the form right. Every office needs a gerry.
An afterthought or two (or a room-filling device).
I like it when Jon Hamm sells insurance with Flo. Jon Hamm could sell fluff.
I like the phrase “nasty little birds” in a recent dog food commercial. I don’t like the idea of ”birdie bits” but I appreciate the creativity.
I appreciate the summer months, democracy, a free press and strawberries.
Contact Kathy at email@example.com.