Florists will stay planted

Owners of two longtime North Side businesses have no intentions of pulling up their roots.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two families have been delivering good smells, bright colors and happiness in a vase from the North Side to families across the area for more than a combined 100 years -- and there is no end in sight.
George Williams Jr. has opened the doors to Goldie's Flower Shop on Belmont Avenue at 8 a.m. daily for the past decade. Before him, his parents, George and Goldie, ran the business for more than four decades, starting in a garage behind McCullough Williams Funeral Home in the early 1950s.
A few blocks away on Elm Street, Mitchell Cohn opens shop daily at Edward's Flower Shop just about the same time. In the early 1990s, Cohn took over the business that his father, Edward, started in 1947.
Since the 1950s, both businesses have seen steady growth. As many businesses have closed or left the city, the owners remain happy with their North Side locations.
History of shops
Cohn said his father opened the business after going to another florist to buy a corsage for a date. His father realized then that $5 could be earned and a woman made to smile by simply combining two flowers with an artistic hand.
The business made several moves up and down the street before finding its current home a stone's throw from Wick Park, but it has never left Elm Street.
Williams Jr. said his father was working at General Fireproofing and cleaning floral shops at night in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The elder Williams, he said, had a keen artistic eye and appreciated the skill put into flower arrangements.
After starting Goldie's, he moved the store several times along Belmont Avenue. Williams Jr. said he and his parents felt the business is better off staying in the same general location where it has drawn customers for so many years.
"I'm not going anywhere," Williams Jr. said. "I am on a main corridor in a building with ample parking in the area where most of my customers are. Many people make the trip here to do business with me."
Not their first choice
For both the elder Cohn and Williams, who were good friends for many years, the floral business was a first love. Their sons would prove to be a different story.
"I wanted nothing to do with this," Cohn said. "I wanted to do something automotive, but after meeting my wife, I decided to go into the business. She told me I should do something with my life other than play with cars."
After graduating from Youngstown State University, Williams Jr. wanted to claim a place in corporate America at a larger company, but his mother and friends convinced him that taking over the family business would be an honor.
Now, both men say they are in the business for the long haul, with as much love for the flowers and arrangements around them as their parents once showed.
Both men also say they will continue to give their customers what they want from the stores' North Side locations, though Cohn has opened a second store in Liberty Township.
Cohn and Williams Jr. both say the area has seen many changes and not all for the better, but the area is making a comeback.
"With the economy the way it is and we are still growing, I am happy to be in business and still in the city," Cohn said.
A third generation?
Whether either business will see a third generation of family ownership is uncertain. Williams has three sons, and Cohn has two sons. None of the children are more than 13 years old.
Cohn and Williams Jr. said running the businesses will be their children's decision after college.
"You have to remember that I didn't want to go into this business at first," Williams said. "I am not going to push them into or out of it, the choice will be up to them."

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