Man returns to roots to sell Easter flowers

April 16, 1995|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

Frank Foehrkolb has been selling flowers at the same Highlandtown intersection -- just blocks from his childhood home -- for more than 40 years' worth of Easters.

The 69-year-old sells hyacinths, lilies, tulips, azaleas, chrysanthemums and all types of artificial arrangements. He's paid a few dollars for each one, but he says his wealth comes from smiles, handshakes and memories.

"I come back and go down memory lane," says the Essex man, a retired postal worker. "We had a lot of fun on these corners.

"This is my hometown, Highlandtown."

The Foehrkolb family has been in business at Eastern and Highland avenues since the early 1920s. That's when Mr. Foehrkolb's father started selling Christmas trees on the sidewalk next to a five-and-dime that is now a branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

By the 1930s, the elder Foehrkolb's three sons -- including young Frank -- helped. Frank and his brother Ferdinand took over the business in the early 1950s, phasing out Christmas trees and replacing them with Easter and Mother's Day flowers.

For a time, Mr. Foehrkolb and his brother monopolized the flower business, with Frank on one corner and Ferdinand on an opposite one. Eventually, Ferdinand quit the business.

But the flower stand -- set up every Easter and Mother's Day -- is still very much a family affair.

Since Tuesday and continuing through this afternoon, Mr. Foehrkolb's son, son-in-law and several grandchildren have helped him sell the blooms.

Mr. Foehrkolb begins preparing for the flower frenzy in January, when he and his wife travel to Philadelphia to buy artificial flowers. Over the months until Easter, he arranges them in baskets, vases, cones and wreaths, adorning them with fern leaves and little bunnies.

But the busy time for Mr. Foehrkolb starts just before Palm Sunday, when he goes to Hanover, Pa., to buy about 500 live, potted flowers. He makes another trip to a Baltimore County flower grower for more blooms, mostly chrysanthemums, just before opening up shop.

Mr. Foehrkolb says both live and artificial flowers sell well, but he prefers live ones.

"A real flower is like a treat," he says. "It's something you don't get every day."

With each passing year in business, Mr. Foehrkolb says he has seen many changes in Highlandtown. Many of the shops from his youth are gone. Rap music now thumps from the speakers of passing cars. Graffiti cover the wall behind his flower stand.

But he says one thing hasn't changed, and that's the people of Highlandtown.

"I have the same customers every year," he says. "I know their faces."

And Mr. Foehrkolb is another thing that won't change: "I'll be up here until I die."

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