DRC honors Dundalk Florist for 100 years of service
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:47

Siblings co-exist to keep Dundalk Florist going

by Ben Boehl

    When it comes to a strength of a business, the first telling sign is stability. Dundalk Florist, located at 7233 German Hill Road, has no problem meeting that criteria as the greenhouse and gift shop has been around for over 100 years.
    It is not just the longevity of the business that has helped Dundalk Florist become one of the 2013 Dundalk Renaissance Milestone Award winners but their commitment to the community.

    Mary Catherine McWilliams, one of the owners of Dundalk Florist, said in addition to serving  the community’s floral needs since 1910, Dundalk Florist is a member of the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce and has made floral contributions to  Dundalk’s Independence Day parade and the Heritage Fair.
    “We have donated flowers to different community events over the years,” McWilliams said.
    Dundalk Florist has been a staple of the Dundalk community since before most residents were born (unless you are over 103 years old), but how did it start?
    According to the family, the business started back in 1910 when farmers Mathilda and Carl Koch needed to support their nine children, so they decided to grow fresh flowers for local markets and sold cemetery fresh flowers from a roadside stand. The original name was M.H. Koch & Sons, and August Koch Sr. took over the business with his mother Mathilda after Carl died in 1924.    
    The business added flowers for weddings, funerals and other occasions after it moved to a property that was used as farmland on German Hill Road in 1924, where the business is still located today.
    Mathilda died in 1941 and August Sr. purchased the business in its entirety from his brothers and sisters. One year later, the florist changed its name to Dundalk Florist.
    “We’ve had many regular and repetitive customers,” McWilliams said. “We get the mother who used us for her wedding that is now buying flowers for her daughter’s wedding.”
    Not only has the business lasted over 100 years, but the Koch family has passed the business down from generation to generation. August Sr. passed away in 1980, but Dundalk Florist is still owned and operated by McWilliams, Lynn Hershner, August Koch lll and August Koch Jr.
    Sadly, the family has had to make a few adjustments with the passing of Louise Koch and her daughter Cindy Morrison, who both died of breast cancer within months of each other in 2011.
    “The first year was a little tough on all of us,” Hershner said.
    “Cindy did most of the sales, so it was something that we had to adjust,” McWilliams recalled. “Luckily we have a great staff that has helped us.”
    As Dundalk Florist is in its fourth generation (with the fifth waiting in the wings), that can present a new challenge. With any growing family, there are eventually more personalities that could result in more conflict, as individuals have their own vision.
    McWilliams explained that the Koch family has been able to co-exist as there were as many of 20 members of the family working for Dundalk Florist at one time.
    “We all have different departments. I’m in charge of bookkeeping. Lynn does the designs and our brother August (III) takes care of the growing,” McWilliams said.
    Hershner added that working in different departments helps keep a balance where each family member has a responsibility to keep the business going.
    “We get along pretty well,” Hershner said. “It keeps us separated, but we are still working together.”
    As any small business in Dundalk or anywhere in the country, Dundalk Florist has to compete with not only corporate America, but now online florists. McWilliams understands the new business model of online stores, but is upset that many times the name Dundalk Florist is being used in those online ads and she wants the public to know that Dundalk Florist is not associated with them.
    “They use our name and it is deceiving. A lot of people don’t know that it is not us,” McWilliams added.
    Dundalk Florist has 32 employees on staff and provides daily operation including delivery service, wedding flowers, rental merchandise, floral tributes for sympathy, welcome arrangements for babies, anniversary and birthday arrangements, memorial arrangements for grave sites, as well as fruit and snack baskets, balloons, cards and gift items.
    “It’s still a honor to serve the community after being here all these years,” McWilliams said.
    •    The Dundalk Renaissance Corp. will hold its annual Milestone Awards dinner on Saturday, March 23, at the Sparrows Point Country Club, 919 Wise Avenue, with drinks served at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Honorees include Dave and Brenda Patro, Russ Lingner, Dundalk Florist, Inc., and leaders from Dundalk High School. For more information about the event, call the DRC at 410-282-0261 or visit www.dundalkusa.org.