Boscawen floral shop to close after six decades
Published: 12-06-2023 2:54 PM
Modified: 12-06-2023 4:57 PM
There are three common reasons why a long-time local business shuts down these days. Marshall’s Flowers and Gifts, which will close at the end of the year after six decades in Boscawen, is facing all three.
The first reason is finding staff, which has been getting harder for years.
At heart, flower shops are a branch of agriculture and it’s increasingly difficult to draw people into that field.
“People think, oh, that would be fun! But it’s a lot of work,” said Lorrie Carey, who has owned the store for 32 years and worked in it long before that. “I go through, I don’t know, 60 cases of flowers a week. That’s a lot of lifting, moving, unpacking, processing, before you even get to the design work.”
The industry has traditionally filled their ranks with high school or college students, but New Hampshire has a lot fewer of them and after-school jobs are no longer the draw they once were.
“A lot of kids have after-school activities. You’re competing with them,” said Carey, whose grandfather, Sumner Marshall, started the business on the family farm. “Their plates are full, and there’s an expectation for those who want to go on to high-paying jobs that you have an involvement in the community, a lot of activities. That’s hard to do if you have a job.”
The result is that Carey, who is 60, works seven days a week and during busy season. Those days can be 12 hours long.
The second reason is the holdover from pandemic chaos.
The store never closed during lockdown but getting supplies, everything from specific types of flowers to ribbons, has never returned to normal even as costs have escalated.
“Since COVID, it’s been a lot more complicated,” said Carey. “I’m sourcing from all over the world, and that got very difficult. … There was one flower grower in Vermont and I essentially said, ‘I’ll take everything you’ve got!’ ”
A related component is the expansion of conglomerates and wire services in the florist industry, which squeeze profits and increase costs, as well as the rise of “fake florists” operating online.
“They are just an order taker but they masquerade as a local florist. They take the order, charge a handling fee, send it to local florists and take a cut there,” said Carey.
The third reason, one that will resonate with all Baby Boomer business owners, is lack of somebody to take over the business.
None of Carey’s four grown children want to be the owner. Carey is familiar with this scenario because her parents didn’t want to take over the shop from her grandfather: She stepped in after college and took it over from him when he passed away.
Sumner, a UNH graduate, and his wife Agnes ran the business out of the family barn on 20 acres on Main Street.
“My grandfather was a gladiolus specialist. He had the best glads in New England. He developed the first blue glads,” Carey said. She took the business over in 1991.
“I brought the baby to work with me. I took a loan against the life insurance policy to do what I did,” she recalled.
In 2001, she moved the store to its current home on King Street in a building she owns, a necessary move even though she no longer had access to the family greenhouses.
Carey said the decision to close was hard because the store has become an institution in the community.
“I’m starting to tell people. Some customers I’ve known generations of the family. They are like families to me. … You know their anniversaries, their birthdays, you know what they like. When the husband comes in you say, the wife really likes lisianthus.”
She has also provided flowers for graves at the Veterans Cemetery for more than two decades.
For herself personally, Carey said she would “just power down. I’ll probably do direct sales for a while – don’t need all the labor that you need for retail – and see what happens.”