owners Abe and Helen Schneider expected a nice retirement in 1983 when they sold Swanson the Florist on Western Avenue in Chicago after operating the then 87-year old North Side institution for 25 years.
After five years, Abe Schneider, then 68, heard Deerfield’s long time Blossom Shop was for sale. Retirement was over.
“He said ‘don’t worry, it’s a small little shop, no weddings, no nights, no Sundays,’” Helen Schneider said describing how her husband broke the news to her that their retirement was over.
What the Schneiders expected to become a pastime turned into anything but as their customers from the city discovered they were back in business. “At least once a week somebody would come in and say ‘Weren’t you on Western Avenue,’” Helen Schneider said.
Seeing old customers from the city not only helped the business grow, but it gave Helen Schneider one of her greatest joys of being in the florist business. “I like seeing the next generation of our old customers,” she said.
Helen Schneider explained how a person would enter the store, realize it was the same operation transported from Chicago and mention how the Schneiders had helped with a wedding or bar mitzvah. The next thing she knew it was time to handle flowers for a child’s special event.
It is not just customers who create the generational aspect of Swanson’s. One of the key people working in the shop is Renee Becker of Northbrook, one of the Schneiders daughters. It is now a full time endeavor for her. The Schneiders live in Highland Park.
“I started licking the envelopes and making the corsage boxes,” Becker said. Not only does she do a lot more today taking and preparing orders, she grasps the essence of the operation as a business serving people’s lifecycle events.
“I like servicing customers because we are part of people’s life events from birth to death and everything in between,” Becker said. “We want them to be happy with them even if it’s not for happy flowers.”
Manager Mike Hosman is another fixture. He started as a teenage high school student in the Western Avenue shop. He got his education, stayed in the business and returned to the Schneiders’ employ as their manager. “He runs the place,” Helen Schneider said.
During the time the Schneiders have owned Swanson’s Blossom Shop, they have grown beyond lifecycle events to servicing corporate customers with some of Deerfield’s major headquarters like , , Jim Beam and . “We have an exclusive with Baxter,” Helen Schneider said.
The corporate business did not come from the word of mouth that built the company since 1958 in Chicago. “We had to solicit those accounts,” Helen Schneider said.