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Business is blooming at flower shop

August 29, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, PA. - One business, two families, 110 years, nearly 70 years in the same location.

That's the history in a nutshell of Eichholz Flowers, possibly Waynesboro's oldest retail business.

Today, the shop at 133 E. Main St. is owned by John Ingels, 56. He bought it from his father, Earle Ingels, on Jan. 1, 1984. John Ingels started working in the shop in 1963 when he was 15. He left to join the Navy in 1966 and served until 1969.

"I wanted to become an X-ray technician when I got out," John Ingels said. "I was a medic in the Navy and that's what I did, but dad said he needed me in the shop."

Earle Ingels started to work in the shop for Herman Eichholz in 1937.

"I was 15," Earle Ingels said. "I swept the floor and made deliveries and I didn't even have a driver's license."

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He bought the business in 1961 from Herman Eichholz.

Herman Eichholz took over the business from his father, Henry Eichholz, in the 1920s. The Ingels weren't sure of the exact date when Herman Eichholz took over.

Henry Eichholz, a German immigrant, started the business in a rented greenhouse near Green Hill Cemetery in 1894, according to a family history.

Born in Austria in 1864, Henry Eichholz, the son of a German army captain, worked around flowers from the time he was 14. He came to the United States in 1884 and worked for a florist in Westerly, R.I. He then moved to Pittsburgh to work for a florist before coming to Waynesboro. He remembered liking the area when he passed through on his way to Pittsburgh, according to the family history.

Henry Eichholz wanted his own property. In 1899, he bought nearly 14 acres and an old log home at 9 State Hill Road. He built his first greenhouse there a year later.

In 1908, to accommodate his growing family (he eventually had eight children), he built the stately brick home on the property. It stands just west of Red Roof Storage and is owned today by Monty and Harumi Westmeyer. The Westmeyers are the home's fifth owners.

Henry Eichholz built more greenhouses and began to grow carnations. He became known around the horticultural world for his development of hybrid varieties of the flower.

He closed his greenhouses in 1935, the same year his son, Herman Eichholz, took over the business and moved it to its current location at 133 E. Main St.

The Ingels buy 90 percent of their flowers from growers in Columbia, Venezuela and other foreign countries, John Ingels said.

"We order them one day and they're in the shop the next day," he said. "The vast majority of roses, mums and carnations are grown in South America. They can grow them year-round there and labor is cheap."

John Ingels said The Netherlands still supplies the shop with its bulb flowers.

Earle Ingels still comes in the shop every day, even though he retired nearly 20 years ago.

"He's been coming into the shop for nearly 70 years," his son said.

Earle Ingels remembers that $5 bought just about any bunch or arrangement of flowers in the shop when he first started working.

"Five dollars was a very popular number in those days," he said.

Today, an average funeral arrangement runs about $40.

Flowers for an average wedding in the 1930s cost around $100. Earle Ingels said. Today, they cost between $500 and $1,000, his son said.

Both said they learned floral design while working in the shop. The shop has eight employees, all of whom work part time. Three work in the office, three design arrangements and two deliver.

Funerals still make up about one-third of the business, John Ingels said. They also are the reason why long days are common in the flower business.

"I worked every Saturday in my life, sometimes on Sunday," his father said. "You have to be willing to be available seven days a week for funerals."

Modern flower shops are nothing like the one Earle Ingels worked in as a boy. Today, to keep up with the times, shops have to sell a lot more than flowers, John Ingels said.

Shelves and display cases hold a variety of pottery, crystal, novelties, stuffed toys, silk flowers, cards, gift baskets, framed prints and live plants.

John Ingels converted a side room into a room to sell balloons, party goods and wedding, anniversary and baby items.

"You have to have it all in the flower business today," he said.

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