Owner Mike Peters (right) and his son, Michael, represent the third and fourth generations to work behind the counter of East Main Gardens in Niles. The business will celebrate its 90th anniversary March 30.

Archived Story

East Main Gardens turning 90

Published 11:00pm Friday, February 11, 2011

It is a rarity — the business that has weathered the storm of longevity, its roots firmly in place and its story as endearing as the service it provides.

But such is the case with East Main Gardens.

Even as the words are typed, East Main Gardens is gearing up for the busiest day of its year, Valentine’s Day. But it’s also preparing for quite a milestone, the 90th anniversary of the business started by owner Mike Peters’ grandparents.

Inside the shop on a relatively quite day, Peters sits in a consulting room just off a hallway where the store’s history is visible in the form of pictures on a wall.

“My grandparents started it back in 1921,” Peters said. “The story goes, my grandma was in the hospital giving birth to my dad on the day he sold his first plant.”

With his wife in labor, Peters said his grandfather, M.S. Peters, had to quickly run back to his home on Main Street in Niles and while there, he stopped to water the plants he and his wife cared for in their garden.

M.S. Peters worked for the railroad, and being home with his family was a time when he could help his wife care for her plants and flowers.

A stranger stopped by as he was watering his wife’s plants and offered to buy one. Upon returning to the hospital, Peters says his grandfather said, “by the way, Ma, I sold one of your plants.”

To which his wife replied, “well, go sell another one!”

The two would run East Main Gardens, built just off their original home at 1521 East Main St., for the next 40 years, when the business would be taken over by their son and then by his son.

“I’m an only child,” Peters said. “Growing up, I just was working here all the time.”

It was quite simply fated and expected that he take over the family business.

“I didn’t really know anything else,” he said. Going through school, he said he planned to take over after his father and felt no trepidation in doing so.

And now, the business has employed four generations of Peters, as his son, Michael, works at the shop.

Over the years, there have been changes. The greenhouses that are home to the shop’s multitude of plants and florals were once destroyed by fire, rebuilt, then the wood frames were torn down, replaced with aluminum, and additions were built for more shop space.

There have been challenges. Rising gas prices forced Peters to implement a delivery charge, something he said his father would never have done. And as the price of fuel fluctuates it continues to create challenges for the business owner, who said he’ll have a number of trucks out making deliveries all day long.

“That makes it a challenge,” he said. “But we’re coping with it and we’re dealing with it the best we can. Fortunately we have good customers who are repeat customers, and their families.”

There was the roadway reconstruction that confused some customers, sending them out to the then newly-developed Eastgate Shopping Center instead of following Main Street to the shop.

And of course, there’s the budding competition from online retailers and numerous area businesses.

Still, Peters said he’s never once thought of moving East Main Gardens out of Niles.

And one other thing, he said, has remained the same.

“Back then, as it is today, it’s the service you provide the customers,” he said, that he believes has kept East Main Gardens in business for so long.

“We provide the best possible service you can give and stand behind it,” he said.

With such a long history behind him, Peters recounts one story in particular of a blizzard that hit the area around 15 years ago. The weather was so bad, he said, he insisted two people were in East Main Gardens delivery trucks at all times, just in case of a problem out on the roads.

“We were delivering north of town,” he said. “And the street was completely full of snow.”

Indeed, the truck Peters and his uncle were traveling in got stuck. But he didn’t turn back, instead, Peters began walking, telling his uncle to call his father if he didn’t return. Along the way, a snowmobile driver picked him up, giving him a lift to the house where he made his delivery covered in snow.

With four generations now having worked behind East Main Gardens’ counter, those stories could be counted in volumes.

Employees will tell you every day is different, some are slow for business, some explode.

There are certainties: Valentine’s Day, the busiest day of their year will warrant some extra help in making deliveries and preparing the arrangements that Peters said always make people smile.

That’s the thing about flowers.

“They make people smile,” he said.

But for an age-old business, East Main Gardens is looking forward to a bright future. The shop, which Peters said has the ability to represent its customers all across the country through two national floral services, can also receive orders made online at their website and they also have a page on Facebook to keep in contact with customers.

In addition to local and national floral arrangements, Peters said his business can do just about anything when it comes to flowers, including wedding floral arrangements.

When it comes to his family’s business, Peters said, “we’ve got it down to a science.”

East Main Gardens is located at 1521 East Main St. It is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Online ordering available 24 hours a day at
www.eastmaingardensflorist.com.

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