Mary George, former owner of George’s Greenhouse and family floral business in Emmaus, wants to set the record straight.
She is not dead.
When Carol Ernst, a later owner-operator of Flowers by George’s who worked in the George family’s business for more than three decades, died in August 2018, rumors spread that Mary, not Carol, was the woman who had passed.
An obituary announcement on social media prompted a call from Mary George’s nephew Mark Kline who had received a call from his daughter upset over Mary’s death.
Mary George picks up the story.
“He said, ‘Aunt Mary?’ Yes, I answered. He said it again. ‘Aunt Mary?’ Yes? I said. He said, ‘Aunt Mary?’ I said, I’m going to hang up if you say my name again,” Mary George recalled with a hearty laugh in a free flowing multi-generational interview recently at the family home on North Second Street in Emmaus.
And then there was her trip to Armetta’s Italian Restaurant and Pub, Emmaus, for pizza, Mary George said.
When an owner of the shop said he thought he saw a ghost when she stopped in to pick up her food, Mary George’s reply was again a humorous one.
“I asked ‘Did Dustin (Grim, owner and supervisor of Schantz Funeral Home, in Emmaus) do a good job at my viewing?’” Mary George quipped.
She was even pinched by another customer during a trip to the grocery store, Mary George said.
The mistake was understandable. Ernst had worked at the George family business for many years and owned and operated the shop Flowers by George for four years.
“They all thought I was dead,” Mary George said. “I had fun walking it (the mistake) around,”
Mary, nee Trumbauer, joined the George family business in 1964 when she married Norman P. “Ted” George. He was booked to do the flowers for another wedding earlier the same day,
“I told him ‘You better be here,’” she joked.
The business already was an established presence in Emmaus, starting as a small store and blossoming into a flower shop. Ted George took over the running of the business from his father, Carl George Sr.
Carl “Sonny” George Jr., brother of Mary’s late husband, has memories of, in the earliest days of the business, spreading cow manure topped by fresh earth in the beds used to grow the flowers for the shop.
“That was our summer vacation from school, get the greenhouses ready for the year,” Carl “Sonny” George Jr. said. “Take out the old and put in the new.”
The business provided flowers to individual customers, churches and cemeteries for what “Sonny” George calls the big holidays: Mother’s Day and Easter. Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day, when flowers were placed on the graves of veterans, also prompted a bustling time for the family business, he said.
Delivery of Easter flowers to area churches started 4 a.m. Easter Sunday, “Sonny” George recalled.
Kline remembers the care that went into growing the flowers.
“It was so meticulously (done),” he said.
Plants such as lilies and hyacinths germinated in the 2,000 square feet of greenhouses on site and then moved outdoors. Planting started in the earliest hours of the morning.
“The coffee pot was brewing and they were ready to go,” Kline recalled of his family.
Four generations owned the business. Lee P. George, Mary and Ted’s son, died in 2014. He was 49. He studied floral design as a vo-tech student, his mother said. Lee George ran the business from 1987 until the time of his death.
In the fall of 2018, final settlement was made on the sale of the greenhouses and floral shop in the 100 block of Ridge Street, Mary George said.
The business spanned 97 years.
“It was getting too much for me,” Mary George said.
The legacy of the store continues in many ways.
The floral cooler used in the shop now chills blooms in a floral shop in Macungie.
Bud vases and other items used in the business found new homes through a recent Emmaus community-wide yard sale, George said.
And the memories of the business remain.
Scott George, another of Mary George’s nephews, remembers the greenhouses filled with Easter lilies, hyacinths and tulips.
“I just always smell the hyacinths, even to this day,” he said.
Kline remembers his mother working at the register in the floral shop.
Mike George, Scott’s brother, got the corsages for his junior prom and senior ball at the shop.
And former customers continue to mention Montana, Lee George’s boxer, who greeted everyone who came to the shop.
“You get to know your customers and they become friends, Mary George said.