Fann Markel of The Floristry is one of Buffalo’s grand businesswomen. Over the past 50 years, the Cornell University graduate has grown her flower business from her kitchen table to its current location on Delaware Avenue near Gates Circle.
Flowers power Markel through a six-day work week. She understands the important role they play in the milestones her customers celebrate.
But Markel sells more than flowers. Decorating her shop are unique home accessories for purchase – many with floral motifs. Markel’s flower shop could be called her home – such is her commitment.
Markel was married for 56 years to the late Morris K. Markel. She has five children and seven grandchildren.
People Talk: Many people would be taking it easy after working 50 years. What motivates you?
FM: I would like to know. I think it was growing up in America at the time I did.
PT: What kind of kid were you?
FM: I guess I grew up in an age when things were a lot different. You did as you were told. You went to high school, college, you got married, you had children and grandchildren. It was about conforming, and that’s not bad. We have a great country.
PT: How did flowers enter your life?
FM: I always played with flowers, even when I was very young. I’d bring them in from the garden and put them around the house. At Cornell, I put them around the sorority house. I started arranging flowers for friends, and then I was asked to do a wedding. I was working out of my kitchen, but eventually I had a small shop at the Park Lane Apartments. I called it The Floristry. I was in my late 30s.
PT: Do people send you flowers on special occasions?
FM: They don’t dare. I’m very, very fussy about flowers. I bring them in from all over the world – South America, California, Canada, Chile, Israel, even New Jersey, where I get peonies. We used to buy French tulips in France, but now they grow them in California. Hydrangea from South America. Orchids are now grown all over the world.
PT: How do you deal with Customs?
FM: I have a broker who deals with Customs in New York. If they find bugs, they exterminate them. If it doesn’t work, they throw the flowers out. It’s very involved. We fly our flowers. Most florists, I think, truck them in, but I like my flowers very fresh, so I’m willing to pay more.
PT: Do you grow flowers?
FM: I’d like to, but I don’t know where I’d grow them. The place I live now has a roof garden, but my life is here. When you’re in this kind of business, it’s very demanding.
PT: Do you turn jobs down?
FM: It hasn’t happened often. I mean some things I won’t do. People will tell me that what they want is big in New York City. Well, this is Buffalo. There was a wedding where they wanted everything black and purple. Eventually they realized – after I made a sample table setup with purple tablecloth, black napkins – it either looked like Halloween or a seance but not a wedding.
PT: What flower has the best scent?
FM: Garden roses from California have a magnificent scent. And white carnations – believe it or not – have a wonderful scent. Gardenias have a wonderful fragrance. Roses as a whole do not have the scent they used to because of overproduction and an intense growth rate.
PT: Are there any new flowers on the market?
FM: There’s always new colors of roses. There’s a little gray seed ball that comes from Africa – silver brunia.
PT: You must have fielded some odd requests from customers over the years.
FM: Sometimes people have odd requests for funerals – believe it or not – but I try to tone them down. There was a family of Bills fans who wanted a casket spray of red, white and blue flowers in the shape of a football. The gentleman who passed away was put to rest in a Bills jersey. I tried to discourage it, but I backed off. It’s nothing terrible. It’s just that you don’t usually see it at a funeral. They were such strong Buffalo Bills supporters that in the receiving line, family members wore jerseys. I admired them. It was a wonderful send-off for this gentleman.