Image of a man in a greenhouse full of plants
Dick Richards is the last in his family who will operate Richards Flower shop, one of the oldest businesses in Kent. Roger Hoover/The Portager

Richards Flower Shop celebrates 100 years and wonders about the future

Flowers are there for some of the most significant moments of a person’s life. From proms to weddings to funerals, Richards Flower Shop has made floral arrangements for people in and around Kent for just about everything. 

“Marry ‘em and bury ‘em. Hopefully in that order,” said Dick Richards, the owner, last in a 100-year-old lineage of Kent florists who share the name.

As the third-oldest business in Kent (behind The Davey Tree Company and Hometown Bank), it’s likely most people around here have been to Richards Flower Shop, or their grandparents have, and bought flowers from a man named Richards.

Richards holds the original signage from his grandfather’s shop, which was founded in the late 19th century and purchased by the Richards family in 1921. Roger Hoover/The Portager

But after decades of passing the business from generation to generation, Richards said he’s the last person in the family who’s going to run the shop. 

Richards, who is in his 60s, started working at the Flower Shop when he was in second grade and is at the shop for what feels like eight days a week, he said. While he said he doesn’t necessarily want to quit, it’s getting tiring.

They’ve been busier because of the pandemic. When people couldn’t go out to buy flowers, they could count on Richards to deliver. He’s also been working the shop by himself ever since late December, when his only floral designer had to call out for Covid.

Richards has two daughters. He said that after his girls saw how much he was working at the Flower Shop, they weren’t interested in taking over. He didn’t want to push them into it. He figured they would do better by going to college instead, and they did.

Roger Hoover/The Portager

In Kent, just mention Richards Flower Shop and it conjures strong emotions.

“The last time we bought flowers at Richards was fall of 2019 for my daughter’s freshman homecoming dance,” said Bryn Oldham, a Portager reader. “Her date’s mother and I went together and picked out a corsage and a boutonniere. They were lovely and that was the last big event for my daughter’s high school career before the pandemic changed everything.”

Richards said the business has been in operation — in the same building — since about 1895. His grandfather purchased it in 1921, named it Richards Flower Shop, and it’s been in the family for over 100 years now. 

Richards, who is the third generation of the family, said being a part of such a long-standing local business and serving as so many people’s go-to spot for floral arrangements is a sentimental job. 

“It’s a lot of hard work,” he said. “You work every weekend and holiday and you gotta enjoy it. It’s not a high-paying job, but it’s fulfilling.” 

Whether it’s a floral arrangement for a funeral, or a delivery for a birthday or anniversary, Richards said flowers make people happy. And every day is different. 

Once, a bride and groom came into the shop in their gown and tuxedo for new flowers because their maid of honor picked up the arrangements the night before and put them in the freezer, ruining the flowers. So Richards had to redo an entire wedding arrangement, which he wasn’t originally planning to do when he went into the shop that day. 

“You never know what’s going to break loose,” he said.

Richards Flower Shop was featured in a Funky Winkerbean strip. Roger Hoover/The Portager

No two flowers are exactly alike, and each arrangement is its own unique piece of art. Richards said he always asks people what kind of colors or style of arrangement they like to make sure they really enjoy what they get. 

“A flower arrangement is like a painting,” he said. “One person might pay thousands of dollars for it and another person may give you five bucks for it. It’s all how you look at it and value it.”

Nowadays, running a small business is tough. “Things have changed a lot,” he said. “When we started in business our phone number was 74 and we had a cigar box for a cash register.”

Dick Richards at his shop in February 2022. Roger Hoover/The Portager

There’s no set closing date yet. He just knows he’s going to be the last Richards running the business and that he’ll be ready to close up shop soon. 

“It’s been kind of a difficult situation,” he said. “I’ve been looking around thinking about what to do. I hate to put a for sale sign out front. That’s just not my style.”

Richards said he hopes he can find someone who would be interested in taking it over and that he wouldn’t mind helping them out. He just hasn’t found anyone yet. 

“If I could find somebody who wanted to do it I’d almost give it to them, I guess,” he said. “Rather than see it close up.”

In the meantime, Richards Flower Shop is still operating at the same place it always has at 1312 N. Mantua St. in Kent. Anyone interested in running a flower business should give the shop a call.

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Maria McGinnis is a contributing writer for The Portager.