HAWARDEN—Jan McMillan and her husband Kel purchased the flower shop in Hawarden in February of 1993. For the past 25 years McMillan has had the luxury of serving customers in times of sorrow and joy.
“Throughout the years we have learned so much about our customers,” McMillan said. “We have been with them through joys and heartache. Knowing what the customers like and dislike, then being able to provide flowers for them brings me satisfaction and joy.”
Before purchasing the shop, McMillan worked for Blinde Floral/Sears Catalogue in July of 1985.
“Arlene Blinds trained me in floral design, plant care and general knowledge of the business,” said McMillan.
Sears Catalogue went out of business across the country in 1992. It was the year before that, owners Arlene and Leonard Blinde, put the business up for sale.
“I wasn’t interested in the Sears part,” McMillan said. “When it became just the flower shop, Kel [McMillan’s husband] and I decided we would try to buy it. It was really a leap of faith for us that I could do it, we took over February of 1993 and never looked back!”
McMillan fell in love with floral designing early on. Bouquets were almost all designed in baskets or containers using floral foam as the base when she started, the only vases used were for roses or carnations. Today, over 90 percent of the floral arrangements are done in vases.
“Flower trends seem to come and go,” McMillan said. “I don’t think I used a Gerber daisy or hydrangea in an arrangement until the early 2000. They have become flowers our customers love and order.”
In the 1980s-90’s all the wedding bouquets were in holders, now most are arranged in the hands of the designers and tied with ribbon. Another change has been with corsages. Most were pinned on the dress, now the shop does mainly wrist corsages. The addition of tuxedo rentals has been another added service offered at Flowers by Jan.
“The biggest challenge is so much of our work is done in a short period of time,” McMillan said. “Funerals, weddings and holidays, we have a couple days to get it all done. I have been lucky in having great help throughout the years, finding great help to come in a few days a year and wait on customers, do deliveries and I have put family to work. We can’t do the work two weeks ahead when business is slow because fresh flowers wouldn’t stay beautiful if we did that.”
Employed at Flowers by Jan are two others, besides the extra part-time, occasional staff and McMillan’s husband. Shelley Aldrich has worked there for 21 years.
“She has become like family, a second daughter to me,” said McMillan. “She is an excellent designer and is an important part of Flowers by Jan.”
Sarah Wasson has been at the shop for 18 months and has learned quickly.
“She has rapidly become part of the Flowers by Jan family,” McMillan said. “I am thankful for them, they helped make Flowers by Jan a success.”
One of the most difficult tasks of the job McMillan has done over 25 years has been arranging funeral flowers. McMillan has cried and laughed with family members as she remembered many of the good times and memories about the deceased while arranging.
“I tend to think it is therapeutic grieving for me and the staff,” she said. “Two of my biggest joys have been designing the flowers for both of our sons weddings and the flowers for our daughters reception. But, the ultimate has been just doing something that I love. I can’t imagine having a job that you go to everyday and not even liking it.”
McMillan will not miss the bookwork; she often times has had to force herself to go into the office to do it. Kel does much of the bookwork for the shop.
Flowers by Jan is listed for sale with Janssen Reality. For several years McMillan has been contemplating when the right time would be to list her business and she feels ready now to let go. There has been no offers and it hasn’t been sold, but McMillan is hopeful when it does sell, the buyer will be passionate about their work in serving the customers of Hawarden and the communities that surround it. McMillan is also not opposed to staying on to help train.
McMillan grew up on a farm west of Beresford, S D. She graduated from Beresford High School in 1972 and a year later married Kel. Together, they have three adult children — Phillip, Randy and Julie.