September 13, 2005 > Fremont Flowers
by John Fisher
Fragile and seasonal, flowers permeate every aspect of our lives and society. Flowers are so common they are taken for granted. They have become a part of: religion, medicine, courtship, ceremonies, decoration, clothing and more. They can be used solo as with boutonnieres or corsages; by the dozen, or in larger arrangements; wired, delivered or picked up; dried, pressed or fresh.
Remember the slogan, "Flower Power" and "Tiptoe Through The Tulips?" It defined a short era in the 60s. How about, "She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not?" Flowers are themes in books, poems and songs. Van Gogh painted a famous still life of a sunflower. He also painted red poppies and daisies and pink roses. Artists, too numerous to mention have covered a multitude of canvases with paint. What is the attraction? It is hard to find something bad to say about flowers, except perhaps pollen and pollen is necessary for life.
Flowers have spawned industries such as perfumes, nurseries, growers and classes on how to grow, arrange or sell. There are flower markets, shows, parades and contests with national recognition. Not least or less important is the Flower Shop.
In 1983 an ambitious, or should I say an enterprising young man of 23 who had saved his money decided to purchased a business named Fremont Flowers. His name is Dirk Lorenz. In 1958, Mildred Iverson, newly widowed and needing to busy herself, opened the original Fremont Flowers in the Alice Miller building in Centerville. She owned and managed the shop for 25 years, until she sold it to Dirk in 1983. Dirk opened in 1984. "I wanted to buy an auto parts house and restore old Mustangs," Dirk said.
Fremont Flowers has had several locations. For the first five years they continued in the Alice Miller building, then moved to where Suju Coffee is now located on the corner of Thornton and Moraine. Five years there, then back to Fremont Blvd., at the old Red Barn establishment which later became the Jeep-Eagle dealership, all in the Centerville area.
Is it ironic or just a coincidence that Dirk started his working career at the Hertz Rental Car Wash that is still located next to the Cloverdale Creamery building where Fremont Flowers has been located since May of this year? Dirk said, "I was over at the Creamery everyday at lunchtime." He feels that he is where he should be, back at the center of the various locations over the past 21 years. Dirk was quick to add that he couldn't have done it alone. It wouldn't have been possible without the help of his family. "We all get along!" He declared.
Randy Pinto, Dirk's sister, "runs the place" he stated. Dirk's wife, Lisa operates the Depot Cafe down the street, by the train depot. Tina Luna will be celebrating her 20th year as an employee soon. Dirk's mother, Shirley Lorenz, retired, still helps for special occasions.
When I walked up, unannounced, and introduced myself, I was treated like family. Dirk's mother, Shirley Lorenz treated me like a longtime friend. I arrived in the middle of "Good Neighbor Day" a busy time indeed, since Fremont Flowers was giving away a dozen roses to anyone that wanted them. This is the 10th year they have been doing this; last year they gave away 10,000 roses and 15,000 the year before that. Last week they gave away 800 roses on "Welcome Teacher" day. Students could pick up a rose, for free and give it to their teacher. The goodwill doesn't stop there. For any extra roses purchased, the proceeds are donated to the Fremont Education Foundation. Karen Fontaine, owner of Karen's Kitchen a catering service, helped out by providing delicious brownies and Italian cookies.
Dirk is proud that his family has lived in what is now Fremont for four generations. He grew up hearing stories about the Tri-City area and he says, "It almost feels like I was there." Shirley Lorenz gave us a demonstration of the "tomato packing" operation she acquired while working in one of the produce packing houses previously in Fremont. "The tomatoes were green, and we wrapped each one in tissue paper," she said. Centerville was the leader in the county during the 1930s for vegetable shipping. A tour guide brochure from 1939 said Centerville was a town of 1700 in the middle of an orchard and vegetable garden. (1)
One of Dirk's great-grandfathers was a painter; another grandfather was a railroad conductor. The building still stands on Bonde Way where his great-grandfather stored his paints. It is the building used as a bus depot. His great-grandfather painted the flag pole near the band-stand in the same area. All are gone, but the memories could fill volumes.
Sixty-three years of history resides in the Cloverdale Creamery building which was in operation from 1938 to 2001. State Highway 17, a two lane road, now Fremont Blvd., ran in front of the Creamery. The Creamery was not just a place to get a milkshake or soda fountain treat; at one time it was a full scale dairy operation. Home delivery was common years ago and several old vans used for delivery of dairy products still sit in the back of the premises. Across the street was the Chevrolet dealership, now located at I880 and Thornton Avenue.
Only two businesses have occupied the building since 1938- the original Cloverdale Creamery and Fremont Flowers. The Creamery closed in 2001. The Peninsula Creamery made inquires about opening a branch, but evidently market forces turned poor and nothing became of it. Later, it was announced that Cops Donuts would open in the old Creamery building. Again, plans were dropped. Last year, Dirk, either through serendipity or hard work, perhaps a little of both, was able to negotiate a deal that allowed him to open.
It's a fitting tribute. Dirk has only had two real jobs, the car rental business (where he worked up to manager) and the flower business. A Fremont historic business location for a Fremont business that is making history.
All over America independent shop owners have complained about the encroachment of large chain stores, some closing their doors, others, barely hanging on. When I asked Dirk about this competition, he shrugged. "They are not really competitors. They can't match our service. We deliver, fast! Call in the morning; it'll be there in the afternoon. It seems the chains soon loose their quality edge, and it shows." Some things are more important than the cheapest price. His positive attitude and friendly personality will certainly attract new customers and keep existing ones happy. He has also adopted new technology. For example, when researching Fremont Flowers on the web, I discovered they have a 24 hour web-cam. You can log on any time and view... well, check it out for yourself at www.fremontflowers.com.
Dirk could sit back and enjoy life but he seems too energetic and outgoing to let that happen. Last year, for the first time, he campaigned for a Fremont city council seat. "I lost," he said, matter-of-factly. He was more interested in telling me about a campaign fundraising event where they put together a 30-foot banana split, and the fun they had eating it than dwelling on one defeat. He lost the council race by a narrow margin and now sits on the Fremont Planning Commission.
When I asked if he was busy, everyone there laughed as if to say, "You don't know the half of it!" Fremont Flowers participates in the annual Fremont 4th of July parade, and the Newark Days parade, which is coming up soon. The planning commission meets twice a month. Civic work can consume every available spare minute with planning, preparation, follow thru, and follow up. Work! Work that Dirk seems to relish.
Dirk asked if I was interested in seeing a newspaper advertisement from their store for the years 1958 & 1959. "Wait," he said, "I'll make you a copy." One ad said, "Mother's Day Special CORSAGE, 2 GARDENIAS...$1.25." Times have changed.
I can't image any business that doesn't go through lean times, unforeseen problems and other burdens. Some people like to talk about their problems, Dirk isn't one of them. Reminisce, yes. Not the pining for the "good old days" but as a valuable treasure that should be shared. In a few years Fremont Flowers will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
The Cloverdale Creamery Building and now Fremont Flowers is located at 37085 Fremont Blvd. which is about 50 yards southeast of the Thornton Ave/Fremont Blvd. intersection. You can't miss this landmark building. It's cream colored and has a milk bottle shaped window above the front door.
37085 Fremont Blvd