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Santa Rosa's Grohe Florists closing after a heritage that goes back more than 100 years

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With roots going back more than 100 years, Santa Rosa’s Grohe Florists will close Wednesday as the owners retire from a business that’s helped generations of local residents spread good cheer, celebrate romance and comfort the sick or grieving.

Brent and Loralie Wilson, who bought the store at 1313 McDonald Ave. in 1988, witnessed significant changes over the decades, from the advent of national brokers such as 1-800-Flowers to the influx of grocery stores encroaching heavily into the business. They also managed trends through the years with the ever-popular roses and dahlias and the more waning carnations and chrysanthemums.

Still, the couple had a healthy clientele and the business was profitable. It won the Best of Sonoma County award sponsored by The Press Democrat seven out of the past eight years.

“There are still loyal customers and they like to go to florists,” said Brent Wilson, 76. “For those who are getting a real customized, on-site attention for centerpieces and that sort of thing ... It’s just a more personal touch.”

The couple decided to put their business up for sale because their daughter did not want to operate the business, Wilson said. They had found a buyer for the business and the land, but that person backed out of the deal.

The two ended up selling the land to another buyer. They have not been able to find someone to purchase the business, so they are selling all the supplies and equipment —including all the remaining vases — as they prepare to clean out the space by year’s end.

At one time, Grohe had four stores around Sonoma County. They closed their Rohnert Park location earlier this year.

“We reached out to the other florists in town,” said Wilson, who added that there are fewer than 10 floral-specific shops in the county. “They told us they had their plate full with business or they didn’t have the money.”

The store took its name from Fredrick Grohe, who started a flower seed business around the turn of the 20th century, Wilson said, though he was unsure when the Santa Rosa store was opened. The store eventually passed out of the Grohe family before the Wilsons bought it more than three decades ago.

Michael McElroy said he became a fan of Grohe while working at Santa Rosa Memorial Park, as its flowers to be placed on graves at the cemetery were always the freshest. In fact, certain gravesites had accounts where flowers would placed every week. Week-old flowers from Grohe would typically still be in good condition when the new order would arrive, McElroy said.

“I would have to place the (old) flowers (in) another location. They were still so fresh,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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