CHARLESTON -- It is nothing new. 

Those at Lawyer-Richie Florist have seen orders from a son to his mother before. The multi-generational business has withstood the test of time and in that time has seen floral arrangement orders with all manner of messages from one loved one to another. 

However, one particular order Wednesday carried more weight this time around. The order read: "Mom, I wanted you to have one more flower arrangement from your favorite florist."

This order, which will be one of the last to be processed at Lawyer-Richie Florist in Charleston, serves as a pointed end to its legacy. The longstanding family business will be closing May 25 after 70- plus years of service in the community.

Flower shop owner Connie Baker said the store building, as well as a few rental properties that her family owned behind the shop, have been sold to Hort Properties of Charleston, and the family business will be retired when the open sign turns off for the last time.

"It is kind of surreal," Baker said. "I have worked here since I was 13-years-old for my grandparents. We are excited about it -- a little sad over it. It is a lot of emotions." 

Kayla Baker, who married into the family and managed the business as the fourth generation in the shop, was lined up to move the business forward, but it was a "perfect storm" that led to the decision to close, Connie said.

"The family help we depended on to take care of our rental properties is no longer there," Connie said in an open letter on Facebook. "It quickly became clear the only approach was to include the flower shop building and relocate elsewhere on Lincoln...While our property sale was finalized last month, new locations we looked to rent were too costly."

Even still, the flower shop owner indicated there days would have been numbered. Connie said the decision partly rests at the feet of state lawmakers and the Coles County Board and the burden, she feels, they have put on small businesses like her own.

She and the family have been discouraged by the growing real estate taxes her business faced as a result of the county assessment, the minimum wage increase and the discussion around a gas tax, which she said is a big deal for businesses like hers where deliveries are a big component of the operation.  

"I am worn out keeping up with everything (coming down from the state legislature)," Connie said.

She said she does not think she could feasibly charge enough more to offset the additional costs expected in the next year.

"I ultimately determined we were unable to continue absorbing costs, yet  unwilling to pass unreasonable costs on to our customers as well or have someone else do it in our name," she said. 

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"It was a gut-wrenching decision," Connie said.

But, for Connie and her family, it was the right decision, she said. Baker and her husband, Jeff, will retire and remain in Charleston. 

Connie, who largely handled the floral arrangements, said she will probably still design arrangements, but just for personal use.

Kayla will be enrolling this fall at Lake Land College to pursue a career as a medical assistant. She said she has mixed emotions about the decision. This family business allowed her the freedom to bring her children to work or go to social functions for her kids, an opportunity not afforded to many professionals.

Beyond that, she had fun, Kayla said. 

At the age of 83, Wilma Richie, who inherited the business from her mother, Vivian Lawyer, the original owner of the shop, had since reduced her role to doing deliveries with a driver and will be making the last delivery May 25.

Since their announcement on Facebook, Connie noted she has received numerous calls of support from the community.

"I have really been surprised," Connie said. "I thought we would just retire and -- I know people would miss us, but I am really shocked."

Baker said the store will continue to take orders until their last day.

Lawyer-Richie Florist started in 1947 when a friend who had owned a shower shop near the Will Rogers Theater for many years was looking to retire and be rid of his stock. Vivian Lawyer and her husband, Stanton, who were operating a grocery store at the time, jumped at the opportunity. The flower shop stood in a small space on 11th Street before later moving in the 1970s to where it stands now at 1100 Lincoln Ave.

The floral shop was recently recognized by the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce as the Small Business of the Year in 2018

Plans for the space are unclear at this point, according to Connie. In any case, the expected closure will leave only a few city options to for floral options. 

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Contact Jarad Jarmon at (217) 238-6839. Follow him on Twitter: @JJarmonReporter



Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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