Parker’s Flowers to close Nov. 1

Jim CaufliedEditor
Parker’s Flowers to close Nov. 1

Parker’s Flowers, a fixture of downtown Perry retailing for two generations, will close its doors at the end of the month, according to the store’s owner, Brian Parker. Parker, 65, has owned and operated the store since 1992, taking over from his father, Don Parker, who opened his Perry flower shop in 1951. The younger Parker has been assisted during that time by Betty Thomas, who has worked at the shop for 40 years. “I love Perry,” Parker said. “I love the people here. If I didn’t, we wouldn’t have stayed here all these years.” But maintaining the business has been a struggle, he said, especially since 2009, when the store first felt the full effects of the worldwide economic recession caused by the collapse of the US financial system. “People are struggling with the basics,” Parker said, “with food, gas and the like. They struggle just to pay their bills and can’t always celebrate the way they would like to, including with flowers.” Parker sometimes marketed his goods as “the affordable luxury,” and he diversified his line to include gifts and other goods, he said, but he could not continually resist larger trends in consumer buying habits and larger market forces. Wire services, for instance, such as FTD and Teleflora, which once collaborated with local florists, came in time to compete with them. Similarly, grocery stores now often stock flowers, making a separate stop at the florist’s unnecessary or inconvenient. Between low wages in Perry and the attraction of big-box retail prices in the Des Moines metro sphere, small-town retailing has been suffering for a long time, Parker said. “I’m concerned about Iowa.” he said. “There’s a lot of small towns going through what Perry is. It’s hard to turn around.” Parker recalled the atmosphere in downtown Perry a generation ago. “There have been big social changes,” he said. “Perry used to be a hub of retailing, drawing shoppers from a lot of the small towns around here and from the farms. Friday nights were abuzz downtown. It wasn’t just about business. It was a social event.” But social changes have led to economic changes. “It’s a whole way of life, of camaraderie and friendships, that’s disappearing,” he said. “There’s no easy answer.” But both Parker and Thomas are upbeat about events and their prospects. “There’s a positive spect to all this,” Parker said. “Betty and I worked at this for 40 years, and we’re proud of what we accomplished. We treated each customer like a friend, like family, not just a number,” he said. But having served on the board of the Iowa Florists’ Association for six years, Parker knows the numbers do not lie. “It is what it is,” he said. “We’re not bitter, but it’s a sad time. We’ve been fluctuating all week between tears and knowing what must be.” Both have secured jobs elsewhere and so hope for a soft landing. The shop will be offering sale prices on plants and flowers during its final days this month.