by nathan oster
It was with appreciation for her customers and a hint of sadness earlier this week that Marie Gemmel announced her intent to close Western Floral, one of only two florist shops in the community and a mainstay in downtown Greybull for more than a half century.
The store has priced everything to sell — 50 percent off or more — in the hopes of moving the merchandise quickly. Gemmel doesn’t know when the business’s final day will be, just that it’ll be soon.
“Tell everyone I appreciate their business, and I’ll miss them,” Gemmel said Tuesday afternoon as she and one of her employees, Pat Shepard, sat in the shop’s back room where they had spent so much of their time preparing floral arrangements over the year.
Gemmel took over the store exactly four years ago, reopening it in January of 2008 after it had been closed for several months while her daughter-in-law and the previous manager, Lyna Smith, was transitioning to a new job at Davies Machine Shop.
At the time, Gemmel acknowledged that she was rolling the dice, but believed that there was support for two florist shops in the community. And for a time, there was. Gemmel said the Christmas of 2010 was “very good” for Western Floral and that the business continued to plug along until last summer.
That’s when the slowdown began. Gemmel had no explanation for it. She said the decline in sales continued into the fall and through this past Christmas, which she described as a “terrible” one for the shop.
Last week, after considerable soul search and consulting with her accountant, the decision was made to close.
Despite having to close, Gemmel said it was a good experience and that her favorite memory was “all the people I got to meet.” She doesn’t know what she will do next in her life — just that she intends to continue in the work force.
She has spent most of her lifetime working with flowers. More than 50 years, in fact. She worked for a time with Oscar Shoemaker in 1969, as well as for Jim and Mary Raffl, Billie Hamilton and Smith during their respective runs guiding the business.
Geraline Bachman owns the building, which also houses a fitness center.
If no one steps forward to revive Western Floral this time, it will bring to a close one of the most successful businesses in the town’s history. According to “Glimpses of Greybull’s Past,” Western Floral opened shop in its present location in the early 1950s.
It came about because of a swap. Prior to that, Western Floral had been in the “Engle building” at the corner of Greybull Avenue and Sixth Street. But when Larry Probst purchased the building, he swapped spaces with Shoemaker, who moved into Western Floral’s current location (and where Probst had been operating).