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Florist marks 110 years in DeKalb

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Danielle Guerra/dguerra@shawmedia.com)
DeKalb Florist & Greenhouse owner Jim Kaelin, 78, picks up a potted geranium in the greenhouse May 7 in DeKalb. Kaelin bought the business in 1965, four days before graduating from Northern Illinois University. His daughter, Sally Kaelin-Mullis now manages the 110-year-old business but Kaelin still comes to work everyday.

DEKALB – Sally Kaelin-Mullis has been so busy preparing bouquets for proms and weddings that she hasn’t had time to celebrate her business’ 110th anniversary.

DeKalb Florist & Greenhouse, 2131 E. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, was 110 years old in May. Kaelin-Mullis’ father, Jim Kaelin, bought the flower shop in 1965, four days before he graduated from Northern Illinois University.

“We stay busy all year long,” said Kaelin-Mullis, store manager. “It makes it hard to plan events.”

DeKalb Florist is a family-owned business that has been at the same location since its inception in 1904. There have been a total of four owners. The Jensen family owned the shop before Kaelin purchased it.

The business was originally known as DeKalb Greenhouse, but after the Kaelin family remodeled it in 1970, they changed the name to DeKalb Florist and Greenhouse.

Work began at the end of April to update the face of the shop with new bricks. Kaelin-Mullis said the store will not change its look when trim work is finished.

Kaelin-Mullis said the floral business has changed considerably since businesses such as 1-800-Flowers became prominent. When people purchase flowers from those businesses, the order is filled by local shops like DeKalb Florist, Kaelin-Mullis said.

For at least the past 10 years, DeKalb Florist also has offered 24-hour online ordering, but Kaelin-Mullis said sometimes they can’t compete with bigger floral businesses.

Customers can order anytime at www.dekalbflorist.com.

“The recession has hit us too,” she said. “The last four to five years have been challenging. The business is not what it used to be.”

Despite that, DeKalb Florist is still blossoming. The spring season - especially the months of April, May and June - is their busiest time of year, and the only time of year their greenhouse is open.

Kaelin spends a lot of his time at the greenhouse. Even though he is 78 years old, he still works at DeKalb Florist almost every day of the week.

Kaelin graduated from NIU in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science in earth science and a minor in biology. He also attended the American Floral Art School in Chicago.

He said he doesn’t consider his job as owner of DeKalb Florist as work.

“I am retired,” Kaelin said. “This isn’t work. I enjoy every minute of it. It’s not work for me.”

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