West Oak Lane: Flowers Bring Family Closer
It all started in Virginia.
The 15-year-old Paul Beale would rush to the flower shop after school and on weekends to be able to work with flowers.
“I’ve always wanted to work with flowers,” Beale said. “It makes me feel closer to nature. You get to have so many different options to work with.”
Shortly after he married, Beale came to Philadelphia to advance his career. He became a manager at Stein’s flower shop, then at Front and Dauphin streets. Beale managed there for more than 15 years until one day he had enough.
“I just walked out at high noon and quit,” Beale said. “All the money I was making for them wasn’t going to me. I wanted something more for my family.”
In 1970, the Senate passed a bill that provided increased federal assistance for the financing of small businesses. Beale took out a loan in 1971 to start his own shop, Paul Beale’s Florist.
“Small business is so important to the community,” Beale said. “We lived here so we wanted it to be in the community.”
When Beale started the business, he would come into work everyday day between 2 and 3 a.m. to get all his designs set up for the day. His wife would then come in at 8 a.m. to open and run the store, while Beale would make all the deliveries for the day.
“I worked night and day when I started this business but I would not trade it,” Beale said. “I love working with flowers and it has done so much for my family.”
Today, there are four generations of Beale’s working together at the flower shop located on Ogontz Avenue near Walnut Lane. They are a tight family who does not let business get in the way of their personal relationships.
Paulette Beale Harris, Paul’s daughter, is the store’s manager. Beale Harris never thought she would work in the flower business.
“I did not go to college to help out at a flower shop,” said Beale Harris. “But after I had thought about it and matured, I realized it had given me everything I had without putting anything into it. After more than 30 years, it has given our family everything.”
Beale has always loved his business and believes in replenishing his shop when it is successful.
“When your business makes money you have to put that money back into the business,” Beale said. “You can’t just go out there and splurge on other things. If you want a strong business you have to put the money back into it.”
-Text, images and video by Ed LeFurge and William Cox.