Lawyer-Richie Florist 01/23/18

Managing partner Connie Baker works on floral arrangements at Lawyer-Richie Florist in Charleston on Monday.

CHARLESTON -- Flowers just seemed to be in the cards for the Lawyer family and its descendants.

It seemed destined going back even before Stanton and Vivian Lawyer jumped into the flower business in 1947.

Vivian, the original owner of what is now Lawyer-Richie Florist, had a fascination with flowers, a fascination that could be traced back to her mother.

Her mother home’s, located off of Lincoln Avenue for a time, was a home that was always blanketed in flowers.

“She didn't have any grass. Everything was flowers,” Wilma Richie, who inherited the business, said of her grandmother’s home.

Richie said her mother, Vivian, would often go to the home and play with and pull flowers that she would then hand out to people she knew.

“Mother was always interested in flowers,” Richie said.

This interest, shared by both Vivian and Stanton, ignited, not only a family business but one that has stood the test of time and span four generations.

After 70 years in business, the full service flower shop has become a key business in the city, and, this year, the business has been selected as the Small Business of the Year by the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce.

Lawyer-Richie Florist started in 1947 when a friend who had owned a shower shop near Will Rogers for many years was looking to retire and be rid of his stock. Vivian and Stanton, who were operating a grocery store at the time, jumped at the opportunity.

“He worked with (Vivian) for three weeks and wrote all these books down on how to tie ribbons and how to design... how to do everything,” Richie said.

The flower shop stood in a small space on 11th St. before later moving in the 70’s to where it stands now at 1100 Lincoln Ave.

Years would pass and it was then up to Richie with her husband Jim Richie to take over the business. It was an obvious fit for Wilma. Her parents had built the business when she was 12-years-old and ever since it had been a key part of her life. She remembers learning early on her life how to create certain arrangements.

But she didn’t think much of it.

“I just inherited I guess,” Wilma said.

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After decades running the shop, Lawyer-Richie brought in her daughter, Connie Baker, as a partner in 1983. For Baker as well, it seemed a natural fit. She had spent much of her time working in the shop as a child and that later blossomed into a bigger role in the business.

“You gotta start them young," Kayla Baker said.

Kayla, who married into the family, now manages the business as the 4th generation owner. Kayla said it was inevitable that she took over.

She said it was pretty much a done deal when she came over for a visit to the shop 12 years ago.

“I was in here one day… and they said, ‘Hey, Kalya. Do you think you can put this greenery in this vase?’ and that was the end of it,” she said.

"If you are a friend or family member of ours, you have probably, at one time or another, been asked or have been in here helping," Connie said.

Kalya is now a lead with Connie continuing to design and arrange flowers while Wilma and Jeff Baker, Connie’s husband, now serve as delivery drivers.

Beyond the legacy that had been forged, Jeff said they are in a unique and gratifying position to be a part of the some of the biggest days in people’s lives.

“Most of the time when we provide flowers to people, it is for a celebration or a recognition of a birthday,” he said. “But, there are also challenging times when our friends come in and are trying to take care of a loved one when they pass. That can be a struggle too.”

Connie said the flower shop has been with some individuals from their birth until their death through the shop’s decades-long existence.

Jeff noted that it was neat to think about how rare a fourth-generation business is, and the family attributed much of it to the Charleston community and family friends that have assisted them in the shop.

“We wouldn't be here today without some really wonderful, wonderful customers,” Jeff said.

“It was daddy’s dream to keep going,” Lawyer-Richie added.

The business will be honored at the Chamber dinner scheduled for this Saturday.

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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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