Living Flowers

McCrabb: Middletown florist goes from basement business to pinnacle of petals

McCrabb: Middletown florist goes from basement business to pinnacle of petals

After working in her meticulous flower garden for hours as a young boy, Conner often wondered what it would be like to cut the flowers, arrange them in a vase and place them on a kitchen table.

He was told the flowers would die.

But the mischievous kid still considered disobeying his grandmother’s orders. Then he thought better of it.

“She would have given me a serious whoopin,’” Conner said with a laugh.

Now, some 50 years later, he’s still fascinated by the power of petals.

Conner, longtime owner of Flowers by Roger in Middletown, recently purchased one of his competitors, Flowers by Nancy on Germantown Road, and hired its owner, Susan Oakley Smith, to join his Master Floral Designers team.

To truly appreciate Conner’s rise from poverty to prosperity, we must turn the calendar back.

As a kid he helped an elderly couple run Drayer’s Florist on Central Avenue after school and on Saturdays. He was there for two and a half years. He never got paid.

Then, as part of Middletown Area Junior Achievement, Conner worked at First Financial Bank. He sat in the vault and separated money.

His father, a carpenter named William, finally was proud. He didn’t want his teenage son to work with flowers. That was no way for a man to make a living, his father commanded.

“He thought I was going to make something of my life,” Conner said. “He thought his son was going to be a banker.”

The kid received one paycheck and quit.

So he started his floral business in his parents’ basement when he was 15 with the dream of being “the biggest and best” florist in the city. By the time he graduated from Middletown High School in 1977, Conner had saved $10,000 and purchased Drayer’s. Years later, he moved the floral business to Manchester Avenue, where it remains today.