Ashes to flowers

The rebirth of Petersen Flowers

KINGFIELD – Glen Luedtke was determined to open his flower shop six days before Valentine’s Day.

Not because it takes about a week to prepare dozens upon dozens of roses for the holiday of love. No, Luedtke had a simpler reason. “I just have to be open Feb. 8,” he said. “That’s the day the shop burnt down, and that’s the day I want to be open.”

Luedtke owns Petersen Flowers, a Kingfield business he runs with his daughter, Vicki Schmidt. The building was burglarized and set ablaze on Feb. 8 last year, and Luedtke and Schmidt have spent the past year rebuilding. Being open for Valentine’s Day, a huge sales day for florists, was important to Luedtke, but just as important to him and his daughter was reopening the shop by the one-year anniversary of the fire.

“Just to prove to ourselves we could do it,” Schmidt said.

Initially, the family didn’t know whether to rebuild the shop, which Luedtke opened in the mid-1990s after years of farmers’ market flower sales under the name Petersen Flowers, a company he bought in the late 1980s. But when customers showed up in droves last Valentine’s Day to buy flowers Luedtke and Schmidt were selling from a truck, the future of the little family flower company became obvious.

“Once we had such an outpouring of support, not rebuilding was no longer an option,” Schmidt said.

Both financial and moral support from the neighborhood and area businesses continued to pour in throughout the rebuild, which took a bit longer than Luedtke expected because of strict city standards. A handicap-accessible bathroom and full stairwell leading to the shop’s half-basement are among the modifications that had to be made. Every piece of the shop is new, from the cedar siding and pitched roof to the grey floor tiling and warm peach and tan paint on the walls.

Luedtke said it would take the shop more than five years to pay off the construction debt. He was still waiting for a final inspection at the end of January but was confident the store would be selling flowers by Feb. 8. The truck used last year was on standby just in case.

The Kingfield community was as eager as Luedtke to see the flower shop open.

“I miss it,” said Joanna Hallstrom, a Kingfield resident and project organizer for the Kingfield Neighborhood Association. “I used to go there regularly.”

Hallstrom said the neighborhood association has highlighted the business in its newsletter and promoted it on the Kingfield e-mail list. She said many people in the community were excited about the reopening.

“It’s a neighborhood, family-owned business that people enjoy,” she said.

Niki Valens, owners of Victor’s 1959 Cafe, said she frequented Petersen’s before she became the shop’s neighbor and continued to so afterward. She said Victor’s did “what any good neighbor would do” during the rebuild – offering encouragement, supplies and any other help it could.

Terre Thomas, owner of nearby business Fairy Godmother, said she bought flowers from Petersen once a week and was looking forward to the shop’s return. But the fire that took it away brought the community together, she said, recalling the long line outside the charred building on Valentine’s Day last year.

“So much love and support came from such a terrible act,” she said. “It just totally knocked out all the bad that went along with that fire and replaced it with goodness and love.”

Thomas said the businesses in her node all support each other and will benefit from having the flower shop up and running again. “The guys that bought a dozen roses over there came here to get their cards,” she said.

Vaughn Yaints, the middle-aged man who rolled the Petersen safe to a nearby home on a flower cart (no money was lost) and is suspected of torching the shop is serving 13 years in prison for numerous burglaries. He has denied setting the fire.

Luedtke said opening his store on Feb. 8 was kind of meant to show the arsonist that the damage didn’t ruin the business. Petersen Flowers is back, and with Schmidt planning to eventually take over the shop, it should be around for many years to come.

Petersen Flowers is at 410 W. 38th St. and can be reached at 823-7311. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

 

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]