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Final arrangements; Wedding will mark florist’s last order after 32 years

By Brandon Evans | Published Thursday, June 3, 2010

Flowers take the place of words.

The delicate, fleeting beauty of petals, pastel or ruby red, is given during the most important events in people’s lives.

On Friday, designers’ deft hands will compose the final floral arrangements at Decatur Florist and Gift Shop. The last order of flowers will furnish the wedding of Laura Dunlap and Cole Tanner. Dunlap was a former employee at the flower shop.

The wedding falls on Saturday, June 5, the last day Decatur Florist will be open.

It will be the last of countless weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and births that the shop has provided for.

“It’s sad,” said floral designer and deliverer Ninva Tuley of the store closing. “It’s been like an icon in Decatur to me.”

“One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is tell my employees we are closing,” said owner Wanda McCurdy. “We’ve had a lot of good employees here.”

Decatur Florist opened on Washburn Street in 1978.

“When we started out here years ago, this was just a little cubbyhole,” said Elton McCurdy, Wanda’s husband of 57 years. “It was just a little building and now, oh boy.”

The building has grown considerably over the years. It is now attached to a furniture store and a hair salon. The doors are unlocked or open between all three, allowing free flow of friends between the three businesses.

“It’s been like a big family up here for years,” Mrs. McCurdy said. “We’ve all had a lot of fun.”

Sometimes they had too much fun.

“Ruth Woolaver was a mainstay up here for many years,” Mrs. McCurdy said. “We’d have a lot of fun. But sometimes we’d get a bit too rambunctious. Whenever that happened, Ruth pulled her Bible out and told us to settle down.

“Ever since then whenever we started having too much fun one of us would threaten to pull a little Bible out.”

Mrs. McCurdy seemed destined to work with flowers.

“My very first job I had as a teenager was in a floral shop,” she said. “I started out here as a silent partner, but later I wanted to be a part of it.

“I just like the beauty of flowers and how they make people feel better and feel good when they receive them.”

Designer Karen Weser also appreciates the importance of flowers in people’s lives.

“All the arrangements we design are important to somebody,” Weser said. “We furnish proms, weddings, graduations, anniversaries and births. And when we do funerals, it is the last thing you can do for somebody.”

Tuley enjoys deliveries.

“It’s fun to see their faces,” Tuley said. “Sometimes they think the flowers are from me.”

Mrs. McCurdy said the business has been a family affair.

“Valentine’s Day has always been one of the busiest times of the year for us,” she said. “My husband was our rose stripper. That is a huge job.”

The floral industry has seen some changes since she started.

“When homecoming time would come around, we’d have to make all the corsages out of fresh flowers,” Mrs. McCurdy said. “It was an all-night affair. Then the silk corsages came out. People didn’t like them at first.”

Carolyn Shaw has worked at the floral shop for 15 years. She also manages the furniture store next door. For years she’s sat on a stool near the inside doorway between the two businesses.

“It’s bittersweet,” Shaw said of the closing. “She didn’t want to sell the business to someone else. She wanted the business to close with class.”

Shaw, Weser, Tuley and Becky Ragan are the current employees at the floral shop.

“Becky is the hardest-working girl I’ve ever seen,” Mrs. McCurdy said.

And two weeks ago, at the age of 80, Margaret Burkmier retired as a designer from Decatur Florist.

“It was all I could do to keep up with her,” Mrs. McCurdy said.

“This is the greatest place in the world,” she said. “We’ve had the greatest customers. They’ve been very loyal.”

And Saturday, her flowers will provide happiness one more time as a bouquet is tossed into a crowd.

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