Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Florist retires after 55 years

Carthage shop was landmark

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When work is no longer fun, it is time to quit, says Louis Lessure, 82, owner of Louis the Florist in Carthage.

Louis Lessure (left) arranges a display with Len Johnson, who worked with him for 50 years.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        The man many florists in Cincinnati regard as the dean of the local industry is retiring after 55 years. He misses the days when the business was more personal and less computerized.

        “Years ago, we had that personal touch. You talked to people face-to-face and you could see their face light up when you suggested a particular kind of floral arrangement,” he said. “Now it is a message from a computer and you fill an order and that's it.”

        Mr. Lessure's V-shaped marquee and drive-through window at 7416 Paddock Road, once the pacesetter in the florist industry, have become relics. He closed the business Aug. 5.

        But he leaves with a smile, because, he says, he accomplished what he wanted to.

        “I have accomplished the goals I had set for myself: to have a successful floral business, pioneer ing floral spectaculars, developing flora-therapy for the mentally handicapped and providing a service to my customers that I am proud of,” He said.

        A World War II veteran, Mr. Lessure flew 37 bombing missions out of Africa and Italy and was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds he received in those missions.

        After the war, he earned a degree in floriculture from Ohio State University in 1946 and started in the retail side of the business to make personal contacts with his customers, which became his trademark.

        His drive-through window, started 25 years ago, was believed to be the first by a florist in the country.

        The display he best remembers was an overhead floral arrangement for a wedding. He said it included a cloud he made from dry ice and hot water with a tropical flower display.

        “We rehearsed it several times, but on the night of the wedding when they turned on the air conditioning, the clouds started moving to the side. We had to fan it back in place,” Mr. Lessure said.

        He created floral displays for the Ruth Lyons show.

        “Whenever she would carry a mike, it was in a flower,” he said.

        He is proud that he hired many people with physical disabilities and developed a program called floral therapy for patients at the old Longview State Hospital. He said the program included teach ing floral design, how to care for flowers and how to grow a garden.

        “We will miss him and the industry will miss him,” said Peter Gregory, owner of Peter Gregory Florist in Blue Ash. “He is a great guy who did a lot for people and the industry.”

        Alan Lessure, Mr Lessure's son, is clearing out the building in Carthage.

        “This is really sad,” said Alan Lessure. “He would like to leave the business as he developed it.”

        In its heyday, Louis the Florist would handle floral arrangements for 14 weddings a weekend and employed 16 people.

        “We never wanted to be the biggest, just the best,” Mr. Lessure said.


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