By Jenn Willhite | For the Daily Journal
For Evelyn Pence, there is no such thing as retirement.
The Edinburgh Flower Shop, which she has owned since 1958, will celebrate its 60th anniversary in February.
As she looks forward, the thought of selling the business has crossed her mind, she admitted. But Pence isn’t sure she’s ready to sell and quit working, though.
The Bartholomew County resident looks forward to spending more time on her more than 200-acre property where she farms, has horses and maintains its landscape and flower gardens. And should she decide to sell, Pence hopes the new owners would continue to offer Edinburgh the same quality of business she has strived to build over the years, she said.
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For nearly six decades, the Edinburgh Flower Shop has been the town’s go-to for all things floral for every occasion. Evelyn and her late husband, Robert, purchased the business from Jean and Joe Hack in 1958. The business moved from its former location at 201 S. Main St., and has been at 119 W. Thompson St. since shortly after the Pences bought it.
“My husband sort of insisted we give it a try,” she said. “When you are young, you are not as fearful as you are when you get older.”
She is glad they took the chance. The young couple’s fearlessness paid off as the shop became one of the town’s staple businesses.
Today, Pence, who is 87, continues to work six days a week, totaling 40 or more hours. Shunning coffee as her beverage of choice, Pence said she’s more a Dr Pepper fan. But what really fuels her drive to continue working full time: dedication.
“She is one of our pioneer women who has pushed forward, made her own business and worked very hard at it. There has been so many flower shops come to town, but she has withstood the test of time.”
—Co-worker Judy Short
On Evelyn Pence and her dedication
to her flower business
“Dedication and taking care of your customers is what it takes to be successful,” she said. “You have to give a lot to be successful.”
And her pay-it-forward attitude extends beyond the business. Pence was very active with the Eastern Star organization in the 1970s. She served as a worthy matron, grand page and district deputy.
The Shelby County native has seen several changes that have impacted her business.
Years ago, floral spreads for caskets at funerals used to be a frequent order, but those have dwindled as cremations are becoming more popular.
Most striking among the changes she has seen is the advent of the internet and its impact on her business.
Society’s preference for instant gratification has only been reinforced by made-to-order floral options online. Today, people see something on the internet, think it can be designed and delivered in an hour, Pence said. But that is an impossible task.
“They forget to order and then order at the last minute and ask if we can get it there in about an hour,” she said. “Most of the time, you cannot get it there that soon. They forget that on the other end, there is a human being who has to make sure they have the flowers and are able to design it, which takes time.”
Despite the ever-changing online and brick-and-mortar retail landscape, Pence’s lifelong dedication to her community and its residents has not been lost in the digital age. Her continued community involvement has not gone unnoticed, her co-worker of more than 30 years Judy Short said.
“She is good to the community,” Short said. “She gives to the community, the American Legion and she also sponsors little kids’ baseball teams and does a lot for the community that the people do not know about.”
For the past 30 years, they’ve run the flower shop in tandem. After working that closely for so many years, the two have developed a rapport with one another, Short said.
“She is one of our pioneer women who has pushed forward, made her own business and worked very hard at it,” Short said. “There has been so many flower shops come to town, but she has withstood the test of time.”
For Pence, work always comes first, Short said. Pence is a strong-willed woman who does not believe in retirement and has never backed down from any challenge, she said.
“She has certainly taught me to be a strong woman,” Short says. “I was a shy person, but she brought me right out of it.”
In the event the business is sold, Short says she will leave as well.
“I could not work without her here,” Short says. “My heart would be broken.”