Inspired by our March issue, Karen Fountain sent me an article about her father (Larry Denholm,) his experiences in the Navy (Go Navy!) and getting into the florist business in Springfield. Enjoy!
Larry Denholm moved from Ohio to Arlington when he was in fifth grade. He likes to share that in those days it was normal for a kid to take the bus into DC and roam around the city. He did this every Saturday for accordion lessons for several years and still enjoys pointing out buildings he visited when he was in his early teens. In his junior year, while attending Hammond High School, Larry joined the Navy reserves. After graduation he went on active duty and was assigned to the navigation department aboard the U.S.S. Boston, a guided missile cruiser.
“Before giving me my assignment, I was asked if I knew how to type. I was grateful that I could say yes, as I knew I didn’t want to have to paint,” Larry shared. In the navigation department Larry was an aerographer’s mate. His duties included plotting weather maps and systems for the navigation of the ship. “I served during peacetime and it was an enjoyable experience. I found myself in many places such as North Africa, Turkey, Cuba, crossing the Arctic Circle and the Mediterranean Sea. I enjoyed visiting Holland and meeting the gracious people. It was fun seeing the windmills. I even bought a pair of wooden shoes and tulip bulbs. France and Italy were interesting as well, but what I remember about Cuba was that it was hot, but thinking back, it was August. One memory that I had as a naïve young man was being shocked to see the children drinking wine at dinner.”
“Unfortunately my father passed away unexpectedly, so I didn’t continue my career in the Navy, but I probably would have stayed in, as I was enjoying my duties.” After returning to the states, Larry found a job working in a bank as a teller in Arlington. “One of my customers was the owner of a florist. He asked if I was interested in helping in the office. I said yes, and found myself working as a bookkeeper.”
Larry feels that joining the Navy was one of his best decisions, next to marrying his wife, Fern.
“I was able to take accounting classes using my GI bill to fund a good portion of my college tuition. That allowed me to continue to advance my career, learn more about the floral industry and eventually buy my own flower shop. When Springfield Florist came up for sale, we jumped at the chance. It has been a wonderful experience and living in Springfield and being a part of the Chamber has allowed me to meet many people. We raised our family in a wonderful community. Being in an area like Washington, DC gives me pride and one of my most honored duties I still have is to delivery flowers to Arlington Cemetery.”
Larry Denholm started in the floral industry in 1965 as an accountant. In 1975 he and his wife, Fern, bought their first shop in Springfield, and then opened Flowers 'n' Ferns in 1979. While the original shop, Springfield Florist, is no longer in business, Larry still finds himself at Flowers ‘n’ Ferns with his daughter, Karen Fountain. “I’m retired, or that’s what I keep telling everyone, but I like seeing the customers and smiles that flowers provide, so I pop in almost every day," Larry concluded.
Karen Fountain grew up watching her parents, "Mr. Flowers and Miss Fern," run the family business with love and attention to details and to their customers. During high school, Karen eventually started working with customers; and after several years of watching her mother and the many talented designers in the shop the design bug finally took over. Karen, along with her team, is proud to create each and every design with love and care and is pleased to continue in her mother's footsteps.
Flowers ‘n’ Ferns is located at 9562 Old Keene Mill Road in Burke Town Plaza. Visit them on the web at flowersnferns.com or stop in the shop and say “hello” to Larry, Karen and the gang.
Charles McCaffrey is chair of the Chamber's veterans committee. Each month he collects and spotlights the story of a veteran-owned business in the Greater Springfield area.