While mothers have been revered since the beginning of time, the first official Mother’s Day in the United States didn’t take place until 1908 after several go-rounds trying to get the holiday off the ground. The Brits had long celebrated “Mothering Sunday” but it is believed that the early settlers were trying to make a clean break from many of the Motherland’s time-honored traditions.
The U.S version of Mother’s Day got an impetus from Julia Ward Howe—of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” fame who was a staunch proponent of a special day to honor mothers and promote peaceful ideals. Following the Civil War, Anna Jarvis of West Virginia proposed a day of healing where both confederate and Union mothers could come together. Her daughter, also named Anna, set the wheels in motion for the first recognized observance of Mother’s Day as a group of congregants at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia were honored with flowery prose and white carnations. And so, the tradition of Mother’s Day flowers was born.
Not long after that first Mother’s Day observance, another long-standing tradition was springing up on Chicago’s North Side as Quasthoff’s Flowers opened its doors at 1767 Rosehill Drive in 1921. Nine years later, the family made the move to River Grove. Strategically located by both the cemetery and train station, the business flourished during simpler, less technological times when commuters could stop in at the Thatcher Avenue shop or “let their fingers do the walking” and order by phone.
When it comes to keeping tabs on the history of Quasthoff’s floral business, Harry Schneider is the go-to guy. He first came on board with the firm in 1969 with the goal of working long enough to buy a decent car. But Schneider soon discovered that Quasthoff’s was the sort of workplace where he could pick up extra hours doing everything from deliveries to floral design. His hard work paid off as he was promoted to manager in 1979. He assumed sole ownership of the business from Adolph Quasthoff when the business moved to its present location at 3080 W. Soffel Avenue in Melrose Park.
Schneider said the move to Melrose Park was made for financial reasons when they realized it was not really feasible to continue operating the shop that anchored the River Grove location. With online retailers continuing to pop up all over the Internet Quasthoff’s needed to concentrate on cultivating floral orders via their delivery and finely-tuned customer service skills.
As someone who has been firmly rooted in the floral business for almost 45 years, Schneider is a bit concerned about the influence of Internet behemoths like FTD and Pro Flowers. He said that going with online retailers makes sense for an out-of-town order but there’s nothing like the personal touch that a local florist can bring to the table. He also added that clicking on to order flowers from a faceless middleman could result in mark-ups of 30% or more!
Schneider said that Valentine’s and Mother’s Day are the busiest times for floral deliveries. He noted that floral orders increase when Valentine’s Day falls during the middle of the week since people feel as if they need to do something on the actual day. Schneider said that his team made about 850 deliveries to Valentine’s on all sides of the city and many outlying suburbs.
During a busy floral holiday, Schneider and the rest of the Quasthoff’s staff generally average about 70-80 hour work weeks. Now, with Mother’s Day coming up on May 12, they are already preparing for another sleep-deprived stretch at the warehouse. Additional delivery drivers have been recruited and bows, baskets and other accessories have been brought out as the team awaits the crush of Mother’s Day floral orders. Schneider said that Mother’s Day deliveries generally begin on Friday for working moms, with Saturday being the busiest day for the delivery crew.
If you’d like the team at Quasthoff’s to help arrange a stunning bouquet for your mother, wife, or any others, call them at 708-456-7890 or go online at www.quasthoffs.com