From the outside looking in, Normandy Flower Shop bursts with color from its bright yellow door and neon window lights to a sea of pinks and reds from its flower arrangements and bouquets.
In the flower shop’s back room, foliage paints the floor green. Judy Benken, owner of Normandy Flower Shop, can be found in this room taking orders, making flower arrangements and calling suppliers.
As a third-generation florist, Benken isn’t new to the flower business. She said she grew up in her father’s flower shop because it was attached to their house, and “there wasn’t any getting away from it.”
“I probably started working when I was around 12 [doing simple little things],” Benken said. “When I started [delivering flowers] after school, I was 16.”
After Benken moved from Muncie to Ohio with her husband, she said, she thought she had left the flower business behind her. However, once the holidays rolled around, Benken said, she found herself working for a flower shop in Ohio because she missed the “chaos and crazy” of the season.
Although Benken and her husband started their family in Ohio, they wanted their children to grow up in Muncie. In 1982, the Normandy Flower Shop, which was established in downtown Muncie in the 1940s, came up for sale. The Benkens decided to make the shop their own.
“It was the [floral] business that I knew,” Benken said. “I wasn’t making much of a living working for other people. It was [my husband’s] idea to buy the flower shop. I just wanted to come home.”
At the time she opened Normandy Flower Shop, Benken said, downtown was “pretty dead” because there were only banks, law firms, jewelry stores and flower shops in the area.
“My pocket book said to move up to McGalliard, but my heart said to stay [in downtown Muncie]. I followed my heart … I stuck with it,” Benken said. “I’ve been here ever since.”
The shop offers arrangements for all holidays, celebrations and seasons. There is a team of six employees who help make arrangements, two of which are Benken’s adult children.
Audrey Scott, Benken’s daughter, said she once left Muncie with her husband to move to San Diego. Scott made a career for herself working at a vet clinic but found herself missing Normandy Flower Shop. Now, she is her family's fourth generation of florists.
“I delivered something to someone on [Ball State’s] campus one time, and she said, ‘It's so pretty, thank you,’” Scott said. “You could just hear this college girl squealing because she was so excited to get flowers. I didn't get to see it, but I heard it after she shut the door."
Because of the internet, Benken said, the floral business has changed over the years. Many times, customers will come in with images of designs they specifically want, and this can lead to needing to substitute flowers within their desired design.
“[Customers] find something they want, and they expect you to have all of that, and you got to do it today and get it delivered,” Benken said. “Sometimes it's possible, but sometimes we have to substitute things. We try [to keep supplies in stock.] I try more now than ever to carry everything there is. So many people, instead of just calling us, a brick and mortar actual flower shop, go through what we call order gatherers… They pretend to be flower shops, but they aren't even a flower shop. They're just getting your money.”
Even with the changing industry, Benken said she enjoys the challenge when someone gives the shop the creative freedom behind a flower arrangement.
“[I enjoy] when we can do something creative, and it’s not a picture of something [a customer] has seen online,” Benken said. “They give you some money, they give you a general idea and you just run with it.”
Contact Pauleina Brunnemer with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @pauleina15.