FTD is elated to congratulate Mark & Hilary Krejcha of Miller’s Flowers in Racine, Wisconsin, on 100 years of FTD membership. The shop has celebrated over a century of business, and has remained within Hilary’s family, making it a multi-generational shop. Hilary was kind enough to divulge an abbreviated history, including what she’s learned from over 50 years at the helm.
It all began with Hilary’s grandmother, Ethel Miller. She moved with her husband Robert to Milwaukee in the early 1900s, where she was a floral apprentice at the prestigious Baumgarten Krueger Flower Shop. After running the flower stand at Milwaukee’s premier luxury hotel, The Pfister Hotel, the couple opened their shop in 1908 in the smaller town of Racine. “My grandma ran the store through both world wars and the Great Depression by staying dedicated to their craft, maintaining the highest quality possible and the best service.” The store still dawns an art deco style with Ethel’s renovation in 1928.
It wasn’t until 1921 they decided to expand the business by joining a wire service known as Florist Telegraph Delivery (FTD). Miller’s Flowers was luckier than most because they had the luxury of the Western Union telegraph office situated six doors down. Accepting wire orders had massive implications on their speed of service and created a more extensive network of customers than they could have ever done alone at that time. “It has been an integral part of our business, helping us thrive and grow and become known.” FTD also made it easier to network with shops overseas, which benefited the boom of German and Dutch immigrants to the Midwest.
Hilary and Mark took over floral operations in 1970 and saw the shop through a host of technological changes- one being the shift to online orders. They paid homage to their roots by recycling their cable address, “milflo,” as their email address. Despite digitizing making the order processing easier, Hilary misses the one-on-one time getting to know customers in person and over the phone. “People like my grandmother get into the floral business to be creative, but they stay for the friendships you build with your customers.” Miller’s Flowers has become the trusted florist for many families, decorating a mom’s, daughter’s and even granddaughter’s weddings.
A particularly memorable moment was in the ’70s when FTD decided to recruit a member of the Fearsome Foursome of the L.A. Rams, Merlin Olsen, to advertise their Pick-Me-Up Bouquet. This gift came in a cheerful, colorful mug and created a way to send flowers casually, celebrating even small moments or reassurance during tough times. “Merlin changed the mentality of people sending flowers. It was now OK to send a man flowers or to like having flowers in your home. This bouquet was the hottest thing in the world!”
As for the next 100 years, Hilary has her fingers crossed that drone delivery will never replace human interaction needed to care for the often emotional and personal events flowers cater. Her sons have chosen other careers for themselves, but the Krejcha’s don’t mind knowing how difficult floristry can be and are excited for new owners when the time comes. “I have wonderfully positive feelings about the future of the shop,” she concluded.
For any other florists hoping to make it to 100 years, Hilary recommends two things: having a tremendous rapport with your wholesalers and surround yourself with the best staff you can find. Quality is paramount, and you must scrutinize every petal leaving your store. It wasn’t always like this, but florists collected the flowers from the cemetery after a funeral to reuse them for the next event. “It’s the opposite now,” remarked Hilary, “One wilted stem will get the whole bouquet sent back.” She thanks her husband Mark for building relationships with their wholesalers and consistently sourcing the freshest flowers. To the second piece of advice, no florist is under the guise it’s an easy job, so by training the best shop staff to continue those positive customer relations and express themselves creatively, it makes working with a beautiful product that much more rewarding. “Florists are generally happy people due to the nature of the service, but I reckon I have the greatest staff that makes me happier than most.”0