It’s not often that I set out to cover a business that is closing in Buffalo. But occasionally there is an iconic business that deserves a farewell sendoff. One such business is The Floristry, which has been around for over half a century. In that time, owner-operator Fann Markel has built up a clientele of customers that rivals the best of them. I recently sat down with Fann to discuss her career in the florist business, which for me, was a real delight.
When it comes to charismatic, charming, and accommodating people, Fann stands out from the crowd. It’s the reason that her business has stood the test of time. But if you ask her what the secret to success is, she will say, “Fresh flowers – that’s the trick! And to always be fair.”
As I talked to Fann, I couldn’t help thinking about everything that she had seen and experienced over the years, including the decline of the city. She told me that she was around 7 years old when she first realized that Buffalo was starting to go downhill. “Even being very young, I always wanted to Buffalo come back, and by golly I’m watching it come back,” Fann told me. “I love this city – there’s nothing better.”
People who know me are aware that I’m a Buffalo zealot. I’m happy to say that Fann is too, I have come to discover. “I remember one time when I was taking a plane trip and the guy sitting behind me starts calling Buffalo the armpit of the US,” remarked Fann. “He said that he wouldn’t live there if someone paid him to. So I asked him if he had ever been to Buffalo, and he said that he hadn’t. I told him that it’s the best kept secret. He replied, ‘If it’s so great, then why do you keep it a secret?’, upon which I replied, ‘To keep idiots like you out.’ The whole plane applauded when I said that, which shut him up.”
It still hasn’t sunk in that The Floristry won’t be around anymore. The business is a Buffalo institution. I asked Fann why she didn’t sell it, and she explained that she had seen other longstanding businesses sell, and by doing so the new owners were never able to live up to the standards that had been set. Fann didn’t want to see something bad happen to the business that she has been running for 55 years. Instead, she wanted to leave her legacy intact, so as not to jeopardize everything that she had worked so hard to accomplish.
While a lot of people are aware of The Floristry as a longstanding, respected business, I’m not sure if they knew to what extent Fann had made her mark on the industry. The year after she opened the shop at 1385 Delaware Avenue (near Gates Circle), she bought the building, which turned out to be a brilliant move. That must have been fairly unprecedented at the time, for a woman business owner to make such bold moves. But that’s Fann for you.
A year after she bought the building, she began to tear down walls to expand her footprint. That allowed her to grow the business in myriad ways, including adding a catering arm to the floral business. Fann began to accumulate everything that she needed to cater weddings, parties, funerals, you name it. She stockpiled tables, lamps, tablecloths, etc. Word was getting out that The Floristry was “the place” to go for those who wanted to make a statement.
“I began traveling a lot,” Fann told me. “I did a lot of parties in Palm Beach. People saw how fabulous everything was, and they wanted to hire us. I spent a couple of weeks each winter in Florida, catering parties in private clubs. I did that for years. People always ask me what some of the most prominent weddings were, and I tell them that all of the weddings were prominent.”
Thanks to the success of her catering business, Fann did meet some unexpected people along the way. “I did a wedding for someone in Kenya, in the safari country. When we got there, we realized that the only tents they had were old shabby green ones. So we had bolts of white satin flown in, and we created a wonderful white tent. One of the wedding guests was of royalty, it turns out. She told me that it even in the most civilized setting, the wedding would have been outstanding.”
Fann also became close friends with Stephanie Powers at one point in her career. She met the movie starlet at one of the Palm Beach functions. Years later, Stephanie came to Buffalo for a visit along with her Hart to Hart co-star, Robert Wagner. Fann doesn’t like discussing the various celebs that she has palled around with over the decades, but she does have a soft spot for Stephanie – to date, the two are still close.
Despite experiencing all of the glitter and glam that goes along with the Palm Beach wedding scene, Fann has maintained a humble nature about her. She is also still sharp as a whip. In fact, she’s one of the wittier people that I’ve ever met, and has a great sense of humor. “It’s my sense of humor that has kept me going,” Fann confided. “It’s been a long journey with a lot of people. Since people have found out that I’m retiring, they have been sending cards… a couple hundred at this point. I’ve also had some people walk through the door and hug me.”
I asked Fann what would become of the space, once the going out of business sale was over. She said that Mark Hutchinson, owner of Hutch’s Restaurant, had purchased the building from her a number of years ago. “Hutch will take care of it,” she assured me. “I have so much respect for him. He runs a great restaurant and he’s a great friend. He also makes the best cosmopolitans, from Kenya to London to NYC.”
At the age of 90, Fann has decided to officially retire. She told me that she’s in fine health, and is excited to get on with her life. Judging from the massive amount of inventory that she still has remaining, spread throughout the building, she’s got at least a couple more weeks before she can kick back and relax at the beach, with a cosmopolitan in hand.
The public is invited to stop in to The Floristry, to check out the loads of merchandise that is still for sale (at a discounted price). The Floristry – 1385 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY | (716) 885-6037