Fire doesn’t wilt longtime floral shop

North Avenue business spared major damage, reopens today

Johnson’s House of Flowers, the longtime Grand Junction business across from Suplizio Field,  was struck with fire a little after 5:30 this morning. Westbound lanes of North Avenue are closed.

Pity that schefflera plant that froze and those stuffed toys that were spoiled by smoke.

Pity the main building with the gaping hole in the roof near the west end and the soiled carpet
beneath it.

Pity, for a moment, Johnson’s House of Flowers, the longtime Grand Junction flower shop and nursery scorched by fire Tuesday morning.

But then realize that what you just read constitutes the extent of the damage, that firefighters quickly contained the blaze and saved other merchandise and valuables, that four generations of the Johnson family have dealt with the ups and downs of owning a small business on the
Western Slope for 90 years. And that the mainstay at 1350 North Ave. will reopen for business today.

You may just have to watch your step.

“We’ve weathered many storms. This is just another storm, and we’ll weather it, too,” said
Jennnifer Quarles, the daughter of owners Rich and Betty Emerson, as she walked through a building in which the smell of smoke hung thick.

The fire that broke out around 5:30 a.m. ignited in an area employees call the “chute,” which is between the greenhouses and the office building. But it did not damage any of the shop’s inventory outside of the schefflera and toys. Firefighters had to cut a hole in the roof to knock down the growing fire. But they moved merchandise that was on the floor away from the fire and even took the time to remove pictures that were hanging on the wall just below the flames, Quarles said.

The Grand Junction Fire Department estimated the damage at $100,000, although Quarles said it could have been significantly worse and credited firefighters for working quickly and salvaging the business’ belongings.

“We call them GJ’s finest, but they really took care of our business,” Quarles said. “It was really nice of them.”

The flower shop hardly missed a beat in its daily operations, even with the fire.

Quarles, the great-granddaughter of Stephen Johnson Sr., who started the business in Montrose in 1919, said employees still made deliveries that they had scheduled Tuesday. They also substituted a similar plant for the schefflera and delivered it in time for a funeral service in Fruita.

The business was closed to customers for the day Tuesday to allow employees to regroup and clean up. But Quarles said it will reopen today, with a shipment of flowers expected in the morning.

Word of the fire spread quickly. By 9 a.m., the business had received a dozen phone calls from neighboring businesses and other local florists, asking if there was anything employees needed.

Quarles said her sister and fellow business operator, Lori Ellis, is in Washington state and was pretty upset before she learned that the damage was minimal. Her father, on the other hand, took time to go out to lunch with her brother.

“He just takes things as they come,” she said of Rich Emerson. “You just gotta let it play out.”
Quarles said the first fire in the business’ history will have no lingering effects.

“We’ve always persevered,” she said. “As long as our family grows, this business will, too.”


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