Saying It With Flowers - From Graham's Florist

People in Bradford have been saying it with flowers from Graham Florist and Greenhouse since 1891 when George L. Graham started the family floral business.

After coming from Scotland in 1885 and serving his apprenticeship at Red Rock Rosary in Foster Township under E.R. Sage, George built the first Graham Greenhouse located in the area of what is now Belleview Avenue. Within a few years, George rented space and opened a flower shop at 87 Main Street.

Sometime around 1897, a severe hailstorm came through Bradford. Within minutes, George lost all of his flower inventory as well as the greenhouse itself. The story has it that only 11 panes of glass were left unbroken by this hailstorm.

The family homestead was on Seaward Avenue. George purchased the adjoining land and started the process of building a new greenhouse on this site. It was during this time that George and his wife Harriet had three children: Lena, William and Donald. (Lena Graham Griffin passed away February 22, 2005 at the age of 102.)

Misfortune would pay another call on George in June 1902 when a boiler in the greenhouse exploded. This incident made the front page of The Bradford Era. The article said that "it caused considerable damage. Mr. Graham, who lives near by, was asleep at the time, as was also his family, and he is at a loss to account for the explosion. Nobody was hurt, but the neighborhood was quite violently aroused by the detonation. Fragments of iron were hurled from it in all directions. The wonder is that fatalities did not result. The loss of the boiler and greenhouse and contents, a fine lot of flowers of many varieties, will probably amount to $2,000."

Not to be discouraged, George began building his third greenhouse. This greenhouse was across the street from the one which was destroyed by the explosion. This is the greenhouse that many "old timers" from Bradford remember. It was located in what is now the Route 219/Kendall Avenue interchange.

Business continued to "bloom", and more "houses" were added to the greenhouse, increasing its size and flower inventory. This new greenhouse came with a considerable amount of land for the expansion. Some of this land was used during the winters in the 1920s for an ice skating pond. It started out as a small skating area, but it kept growing in size and popularity with area residents, On any given Saturday, there would be hundreds of people of all ages skating. People would either walk down the Erie railroad tracks or ride the streetcar to get to the pond. The railroad tracks were right behind the greenhouse. The streetcar had hourly service and made a loop of Bradford (Jackson Avenue, School Street, Washington Street, Main Street, East Main Street, Foster Brook) for $.05. The City even put up streetlights to light the pond. Mention is still made in 'Round the Square about this part of Bradford's history.

In 1927 a building was purchased for the flower shop. Built as a bank but never used as such, it was, and still is, located at 9 Kennedy Street. According to The Bradford Era, the formal opening of the flower shop "was attended by several thousand. The new store is one of the most up-to-date in any part of the country. Marble top tables take the place of the counters for the display of flowers and in one side is an attractive resting place for the women. A feature of the store is the electric refrigeration, the large cellar and a spacious workroom at the rear. The building has been remodeled until the exterior is one of the handsomest in the city. Each person attending yesterday's opening was presented a rose bud and until 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon, Mr. Graham had given away 3,000 roses, the extent of his supply."

Getting "up in age," George retired and turned over the business to his sons, William and Donald. William died just a few years later at the age of 35. Ownership of the family business went to his young widow, Marion, and their three sons - Malcolm, Jack and Robert. Since that time, Malcolm's son Bill has taken over ownership of the greenhouse and Jack's daughter, Candy, has taken over ownership of the flower shop.

In its 100+ years of history, Graham Florist has seen many changes: the introduction of electric refrigeration, the use of cars/trucks for delivery instead of horse-drawn wagons and bicycles, and most notably the method of placing FTD orders - from the use of the phone (Graham's original phone number was "Bell Phone 455-R") to the use of the telephone, to the use of the computer.