NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WKBN) – A local florist with a nationwide following is celebrating its 171st anniversary this year, which owners say makes it the oldest in the country.
It all began 171 years ago with a greenhouse on Butz Street in New Castle. The location looks much different now. These days, the road is lined with homes and Butz Flowers operates out of a shop downtown.
“Going back in the ’70s and ’80s, there were nine flower shops in New Castle, Pennsylvania. There are three left and I own two,” said owner Mark Kauffman.
The company was founded in 1850 when Paul Butz immigrated from Switzerland and started a wholesale business specializing in orchids. At one point, Kauffman says the family had 60,000 orchid plants.
“They would bring them down in horse and buggy to put them on the train, and they would ship them as far as Canada, San Francisco and New Orleans,” Kaufmann said.
The company opened its first retail shop in 1895, eventually moving to East Washington Street where design work is done now. Another location, the fifth, on Wilmington Road opened three years ago. Kauffman says Butz is now the oldest flower business in the country. Through the years, it survived a lot of hardship.
“Let’s go back to the Civil War. The Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Great Depression, the recession of 2008, and COVID was nothing compared to that,” Kauffman said.
The COVID pandemic actually helped his business. Since many of his customers were afraid to leave their homes, they often ordered online or by phone, making this last year his best in 20 years.
Among the company’s memorabilia is a business card dating back to the 1950s. The phone number back then was just “5” since the business was the fifth in the area to have one. There’s also a newspaper ad featuring roses at $5 a dozen. The company still sends out calendars at Christmas and they have one dating back to 1914.
Kauffman, who started working in the business in 1983 and took over when the Butz family retired, said persistence has been a key.
“People who are persistent have a way of winning in life. They have a way of succeeding,” he said.