The only thing that's been around Moore Flowers longer than Jodi Mitchell is the cooler.
It originally was used by a grocery store and has labels for dairy products still attached. Mitchell couldn't bear to leave it behind when she moved the shop from Riverside to the west side five years ago. And not just for nostalgia's sake.
“It's my most reliable cooler,” she says.
Still, Mitchell appreciates that there's “a lot of history with this little shop,” which was started by Floyd Moore, a teacher at North High, and his wife, Edna, in 1947.
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Mitchell, a native of Attica, was 20 with a year of studying retail floriculture at Kansas State University under her belt when she got a job at Moore in 1984. “They took a risk on me,” she says of the shop's previous owners. “There's a lot involved in this.”
Mitchell credits longtime Wichita florist Leah Millspaugh with teaching her that the job was about more than pretty flowers. It was how you put them together and made them stay together in corsages and other arrangements. "Her thing was ‘As you long as you know the mechanics, you can design anything.’”
“She tough-loved me,” Mitchell adds. “There were nights I would go home crying.”
Mitchell bought the shop in 2000. By then, she knew there was more than mechanics to the job. Flowers have to be stored at the right temperature, rotated to keep from wilting and can't be overhandled. With flowers shipped in from around the world, purchasing options are wider than ever.
Still, she says, it's “just the creative aspect” of being a florist that appeals most to her. Her designs have been featured in Florist Review, The Knot and HGTV.
“We have a very natural style,” she says. “We might incorporate branches and eucalyptus (in an arrangement) – like a natural garden look.”
Mitchell's three sons grew up playing in the shop, and all of them and their wives have worked there in the past.
Five years ago, Mitchell moved the shop from its original location at 13th and Bitting to the corner of Maple and Maize. The decision wasn't made lightly – some Riverside residents still miss the shop's colorful window displays – but she said the closing of the neighborhood's Dillon supermarket and other factors had cut into her business there.
“It was time to take a risk and redefine who we were, and it worked. Not without a lot of complaining from customers in Riverside. But I feel like a lot have followed us.”
Today, she does a lot of business connected to west-side funeral homes, although weddings are still the shop's biggest source of income. The shop also sells candles, soaps and other gifts and rents vases and decorative items.
“I'm huge on customer service,” she said. “That's a major peeve of mine – going into a place and being greeted by someone who's not polite and knowledgable.”
To celebrate its 70th anniversary, Moore Flower is holding an open house Sept. 21-23 featuring discounts, refreshments and the chance to win flowers for a year.
Mitchell feels lucky to be part of a business now serving third-generation customers on some of the most important occasions in their lives. One bride was “excited to tell us that Moore Flowers did her grandparents’ wedding over 50 years ago. That speaks volume to me.”