Reasons to Smile for Every Occasion

by Sara Browning

From traditional to contemporary, Johnson’s Floral and Greenhouses delivers professional services with the special touch only a family business can provide.

When you work for Johnson’s Floral and Greenhouses, flowers are always in season. And when you work in a family business, the professional and personal satisfaction never ends. Founded in 1951 by Harm Johnson, who sold the business in 1967 to Wally Grethey and his son, Paul, Johnson’s Floral and Greenhouses has grown to become one of the best-known flower shops in central Illinois.

“After my grandfather and father bought the business, my uncle, David, became half-partner with my dad in 1974,” says Paul Grethey, Jr., who purchased the Morton-based business in February. His wife, Krista, a nurse at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, is also a partner in the company. “The whole family works together. My mom and my aunt work here, and my sister-in-law and cousins are also here with us. When you own a family business like this, you’re around it all the time. You live it. You breathe it. It’s in your blood.”

Whether planning a wedding celebration or searching for something special for Valentine’s Day, Johnson’s Floral and Greenhouses offers some of the finest flower arrangements in the region. “We have professional florists who work with our customers to find the perfect flowers and arrangements for any occasion,” says Grethey. “It’s all about what our customers want.”

Comfort and Joy
Indeed, the company has its customers covered with a wide selection of fresh flowers, customized gift baskets and lovely plant assortments. “We can make the perfect corsage and boutonniere with the best selection of prom flowers to match every color of prom dress,” Grethey says. “If someone needs an anniversary gift idea, we can make a bouquet of classic roses. The sky is really the limit.”

A vibrant bouquet sends the perfect “get well” message, and there is no better way to say “thank you,” “congratulations” or “happy birthday” than with a festive flower arrangement. Flowers are also among the most significant elements in a wedding, and Johnson’s offers free wedding consultations and a chance to speak with designers and view floral arrangements from previous weddings. “Our customers can give us their ideas, and we’ll offer creative thoughts and designs to meet [their] budget. We also specialize in wedding receptions and flowers for the wedding party, such as wedding corsages, boutonnieres and bridal bouquets,” he says.

In addition, the company offers a wide selection of funeral, casket and sympathy flowers. “With the right arrangement, we can help our customers express heartfelt condolences. That’s one of the great things about this business. We get to bring comfort, joy or laughter into people’s lives.”

No matter what the occasion, their professional staff invests its attention into even the smallest details. “We take time to make each arrangement beautiful,” explains Grethey. And flower bouquets are just the beginning. “We’re in the business of what I like to call ‘plantscaping’ and also ‘yardscaping.’ We do everything but mow,” he laughs. To that end, horticulture specialists at the greenhouse are available to offer professional advice on gardening and landscaping.

The services Grethey and his family provide go above and beyond. “There’s nothing we can’t do. We can take a yard or a business property and make it look like something out of Chicago, New York or L.A. We’ve been told we’re in the top 10 percent in the country for diversification. We’ve done weddings out of state—California, Iowa, Oregon, Minnesota. And our reputation travels by word of mouth. So, it’s good for us, and it’s good for our customers.”

“We give people what they want,” adds John Gilkeson, a decorator at the company since 2000. “We don’t conform our customers to our style... We’ll do any style, any taste. That’s the way design should roll… client-driven!”

The Little Things
One of the perks of the business Grethey enjoys is interacting with people from all walks of life. “We deal with the youngest of the young during prom season, but we also have CEOs of corporations come into our shop. We serve everyone from the one-thousand-dollar suit to the hardhat. Everyone gets treated exactly the same, and everyone is comfortable here.”

Grethey’s mother, Jane, calls the shop “a business of emotions.” “We see the saddest times when people are grieving the death of a loved one and the happiest times during wedding planning and new babies. Sometimes, our customers just need someone to talk to, so I stop what I’m doing and listen. It’s the little things that add up and mean the most.”

Without a doubt, Johnson’s Floral and Greenhouses takes customer satisfaction seriously, providing perks customers may not find elsewhere. “When a customer buys flowers from us, we’ll carry them out to their vehicle,” Grethey says. “One day we had a little girl in our store, and we asked her what her favorite color is, and she told us it was pink. So we gave her a pink carnation. We’re always doing things like this for our customers. It’s what we do!”

Grethey says it is heartening to watch the expressions on people’s faces when they receive an unexpected delivery. “Our flowers don’t arrive at a customer’s home in some cardboard box. We hand-deliver our flowers right to the front door, and we provide same-day delivery when customers need flowers at the last minute.”

Customers who call the shop will never be transferred to an answering machine; when the business is closed, their calls transfer right to Grethey’s cell phone. “We take phone calls after hours. We have order pads in our cars, in our homes. I’ve seen my dad take orders at Thanksgiving, at Christmas. And we never say no. If a customer requests something that’s out of our scope of business, we’ll recommend someone for them.

“I like to say our business has the feel of a ‘mom and pop’ store. But it’s so much more than that. We treat everyone who comes to us like family.”

Benefits and Blessings
Being able to do what you love professionally has its benefits, according to Grethey, and doing it with your family is an added blessing. “You can always count on your family. Whenever I have needed advice, someone in my family has always been there for me.”

Grethey says his father, mother, aunt and uncle have helped guide him in his professional journey. Having worked with his father since he was a child, Grethey aspires to emulate his example. “My dad is a machine. He is the hardest-working person you will ever meet. And I push myself to work as hard as he does.”

Working with family also helps Grethey balance his work with his personal life. A father to two boys, with a full schedule of football, baseball and basketball games to attend, he is grateful there’s always someone to cover for him. “I can take time away from work for a ballgame and never miss any family outings. There’s a good balance.”

In the future, Grethey and his family have their eyes set on growing the business. “We’d like to move more into the corporate sector. We want to grow at a good pace, but we don’t want to lose the family touch. It’s what distinguishes us.”

New ideas, he adds, are the key to making the business thrive. “We’re not reinventing the wheel here. We’re looking to bring new ideas to carry on some legacy. If my boys want to get into this business, they can. My mom, dad and uncle are truly the picture of the American dream. They began knowing nothing about the flower business, and they turned this place into one of the best-known and oldest flower shops in central Illinois.” iBi

Johnson’s Floral and Greenhouses, located at 313 N. Morton Avenue in Morton, is open Monday through Friday, 8am to 5:30pm and Saturday, 8:30am to 3:30pm. For more information, visit johnsonsfloral.com or call (309) 266-7525.

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