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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Eitel follows in father's footsteps

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Ken Eitel, owner of Eitel's Flowers and Gifts in Greencastle, is selling the family's flower business after almost 100 years of operation in the community. The businesses was started in 1908 by Eitel's great-grandfather John Jacob Eitel.
Greencastle business owner Ken Eitel remembers when his father, the late Kenneth John Eitel, started the process of selling his family's long-standing flower shop to make way for his retirement.

But retirement never came for the senior Eitel, who died at the age of 58, leaving his wife, and later son, to carry on the tradition.

Almost 30 years since buying the business from his widowed mother, Ken, 61, is in the early stages of planning for his own retirement and like his father before him, has decided to put the business up for sale.

Courtesy photo Old photograph showing the Eitel's greenhouses that once stood at the family's property on Melrose Avenue in Greencastle.
Since making the announcement a few weeks ago, Eitel has heard from past customers of the store who are saddened by the pending sale. But Eitel said he believes all businesses go through a cycle, including changing hands from time to time.

"That cycle of life is just reality," he said. "My interest is seeing a business of this quality continue."

The business got its start in 1908 when John Jacob Eitel, Ken's great-grandfather, started growing and selling flowers, which he raised in the family's greenhouses on Melrose Avenue and shipped to stores in Indianapolis.

The greenhouses were eventually demolished and the business was moved several times before eventually settling on South Vine Street where it is today.

In 1913, the business was expanded to include a retail store to serve customers in Greencastle. Eitel's grandfather, the late Jacob John Eitel, spearheaded that effort.

Later came Eitel's father Kenneth and then Ken himself who worked at the shop as a small boy, but moved on to other things in his adult life until going back to the business in 1980.

Eitel's memories of the flower shop go back many years, beginning when he was a boy and got in trouble for carousing outside the front of the store. Another memory involves him filling "thousands" of water tubes used for fresh flowers.

"It's one of those jobs that sounds simple, but it doesn't take long to get bored," Eitel said with a smile.

Another memory -- and one he's not sure his father ever knew about -- is his learning to drive in Forest Hill Cemetery.

Eitel said he and then flower shop employee Jack Flint spent time in the summers filling graveside urns at the cemetery with dirt and flowers, a job commonly conducted by florists at the time.

That's where Eitel, who was 15 years old at the time, had ample opportunity to practice his driving skills by piloting the flower shop's delivery truck through the cemetery.

Eitel chuckles about it now and says he never ran into any grave markers.

After he was grown, Eitel stepped away from the family business and worked for local furniture and appliance retailer Horace Link. But after his father died and his mother had run the flower business for a while, Eitel bought the store with his wife Jackie and left Horace Link.

Eitel reminisced this week about the last 30 years of owning the business and one of his favorites jobs -- delivering flowers to customers.

"I can't think of any time that I didn't get a smile when I handed someone a bouquet of flowers," he said.

Another "enjoyable experience" is Friendship Day, whereby the store provides flowers for community members to pass out to each other.

The past aside, customers who frequent Eitel's need not worry, according to Ken, because no one has come forward yet to buy the business, so operations are continuing as normal. Once the sale does occur, Eitel plans to stay active in the community and continue with teaching at Ivy Tech Community College where he is an adjunct teacher of business classes. He said he views the sale as a positive step in the life of the business.

"It's just been an awesome blessing to us," Eitel said of the business. "Not only has it been a blessing to us, I hope we have been encouragers and the type of business that has built into others' lives. I guess it's time for someone else to pick up and build their own traditions."

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-- Posted by Michele1953 on Sat, Aug 18, 2007, at 12:02 PM

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