Petersen Flowers burned; will rise again

Police arrest alleged arsonist, thief

Weeks after Petersen Flowers was burglarized and set ablaze, owners Glen and Jane Luedtke will learn the fate of their shop.

Once crews are finished clearing out the smoke-filled debris, structural engineers will assess whether the building at 410 W. 38th St. can be saved. In the past 14 years, Petersen has become a beloved community institution, best known for selling flowers at Downtown farmers' markets. As word passed that the flower shop had been hit, well-wishers and regular customers stopped by to give their condolences and to leave notes of support. A website has been established to collect donations and to conduct an ongoing online auction to benefit the owners.

&#8220When you go to work everyday at the same business and all of a sudden you don't have a place to go, you just feel lost,” Jane Luedtke said just before Valentine's Day, when the shop sold its merchandise from a refrigerated truck in the parking lot. &#8220We know so many other florists that somehow it'll work.”

Between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Feb. 8, Vaughn James Yaints allegedly took the shop's safe containing about $100,000 before setting the place on fire. He was arrested the next day and charged with three other burglaries in the area. Police believe he is responsible for dozens of local robberies. The shop had twice been robbed, but less money was stolen in those incidents.

If engineers give the go ahead to renovate, the Tangletown residents expect to be fully back in business within months. If the damage is determined to be too severe to rebuild, the shop will be torn down. It could take up to a year to rebuild. In the meantime, the Luedtkes plan to fill corporate orders.

Lost in the blaze were the Luedtke family photos that hung near the entrance. The keepsake portraits were blackened like almost everything else inside, which was still steaming hours after the fire subsided.

In a strange twist, the cooler that kept flowers fresh was still intact and had managed to preserve the flowers it contained. A brightly colored mural painted by a Cuban artist that adorns the exterior side of the building facing Victor's 1959 Caf also was unscathed.

To donate or participate in the online auction go to www.novemberboards.com/petersen.htm.