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Flowers by Wire
Tribune photo published April 4, 1955
Paul Coe, right, tends to customer Gerold Stepanek, who has asked that Easter flowers be delivered to relatives in Austria. Coe’s Flowers operated in 1955 from a downtown storefront in the Sheldon-Munn Hotel and from the Campustown shop, 2542 Lincoln Way.
Tribune, April 4, 1955
How many times have you hastily penned a note “With best wishes” and enclosed it with a bouquet of flowers and set it off to a friend . . . knowing full well that the flowers will carry the message that is in your heart, but that your lips are unable to put in words? Whether it be a message to comfort one in deep sorrow . . . to encourage one to get well . . . or to carry a congratulatory wish of happiness, flowers supply the vocabulary when words seem inadequate.
The Paul Coe Flower Shops, located in the Sheldon Munn Hotel building and at 2542 Lincoln Way try at all times to have just the kind of flowers that will help you to best convey your message. In addition to flowers, both shops carry a large selection of gift merchandise . . . but this story is about flowers, and the number of extra services offered by Coes to enable both the sender and the receiver to get more satisfaction from them.
Of the nation wide services available through the Paul Coe Flower Shops, the latest addition is the Photo Acknowledgement Service which is currently being installed. On all gift orders for flowers costing $7.50 or more, a color photo will be taken of the bouquet before it is delivered, and the transparency will be sent to the sender under the title, “It’s Picture Proof!” As shown in the photograph above, the acknowledgment will show how the card was worded, to whom the bouquet was sent, and the date it was sent, in addition to the color picture transparency. This new service, Coe says, will add more enjoyment to giving.
An elaborate lighting arrangement has been set up in the basement of the downtown store where the photographing can be done quickly. Speed is important, for on the day of a funeral a bee hive wouldn’t hold a candle to the activity around the Coe Flower Shops.
Speaking of speed, the little character “Speedy” shown here symbolizes the Florists Telegraph Delivery association, through which flowers can be telegraphed all over the nation, and to many foreign countries. Coes have been members of the FTD for the past twenty-two of their twenty-three years in the flower business. They have had a number of telegraph orders to foreign countries.
Paul has long used photography in his business. Years ago he found that brides liked to have pictorial records of their wedding flowers, then he branched into photographing the wedding party. Now, his service includes a pictorial “history” of the wedding, either in black and white, color transparencies or 3-D color, and if the bride wants it, he is equipped to make a tape recording of the wedding ceremony. Add it up . . . wedding flowers . . . photographs of the service, and a recording of the ceremony . . . a mighty complete service.
“Say it with flowers.” They speak a language that everyone understands.
This 1954 photo shows Coe's Flower Shop in Campustown at 2542 Lincoln Way.
Tribune, April 12, 1954
Two persons in Ames hold the record for attending more Story county weddings than anyone else. Paul Coe and his sister, Mrs. Edna Mayo, of the Coe Flower Shop claim that distinction, with a record of over 2,000 weddings to their credit.
They go as florists for the weddings, but Coe has added such sidelines as smelling salts in his pocket for weak-kneed grooms—a service he has not been called on since he started carrying them—and a small sheet of sandpaper to rough up the soles of the bride’s shoes so she won’t slip. Probably Paul and Edna are the two most calm people at any wedding.
In addition to the smelling salts and sandpaper (no charge for these services) the Coes have pioneered in several refinements for wedding customers. For instance they will take a series of photographs at weddings either in black and white or in 3-D color transparencies, and they will make a tape recording of the whole service. Edna, an artist in floral design, does the floral pieces, and Paul does the photography.
Coe says there have been many amusing incidents at weddings, but he denies that he has ever been called upon to catch a groom and bring him back to the service. Paul started his career on Ames’ Main street back in 1920 when he worked for his father, Ed Coe, in the seed and produce business. He was the “flunky” around the place before and after school. As a student at Iowa State in 1932, Paul learned that there was to be a store space available in the Sheldon-Munn hotel, so he sold his Dad on the idea of leasing it for him to establish a flower shop.
Floral design is a somewhat tricky business, and Paul’s experience in that line had been limited to selling the flower seeds, so his problem was to learn. . .and learn fast.
History shows that 1932 was a tough year for most everything but Paul found someone who would help him. One of the large florists in Chicago offered to teach him floral design, free of charge. That is, Paul could learn by experience. . .for free. . .but he had to work for the florist. . .for free, as his tuition.
After spending several months in Chicago he returned to open the Coe Flower Shop in the fall of 1932, with his sister, Mrs. Mayo, as his chief assistant. Their stock of merchandise consisted of seeds, flowers and gold fish. However, within a few years the flower business increased to the point that they discontinued both the seeds and gold fish and concentrated on flowers.
However, the seed business that was operated by father Ed Coe is still in operation under the ownership of brother Dr. R. T. Coe, now located on S. Duff. In 1948 some additional store space was made available so they added a line of gifts.
In 1937 a new member of the firm was added when Paul and Julia Baker were married. Since 1938, Mrs. Coe has managed their Campustown flower and gift shop, and does the designing of corsages for student customers. Article continues below....
This deteriorated photo shows the Sheldon-Munn location of Coe's Flowers in the 1950s.
At the present time, Coe’s is the only Story county member of the Florist Telegraph Delivery association which telegraphs flowers all over the United States and Canada. The association also has an international exchange to enable members to wire flowers all over the world. Last week, in fact, Coe’s received flower orders from Oslo, Norway, and from Singapore for delivery in Ames and Story City. Paul, who estimates that they have telegraphed more than 26,000 flower orders, has served the Iowa unit of FTD association by holding all of the offices, including serving two years as district representative.
Coe has also served for 11 years on the board of directors of the Society of Iowa Florists, and was president in 1944 and 1945. Paul helped design and installed the first open top florist refrigerator in the country. Today that type of refrigerated sales cabinet is in use all over the nation.
Since 1932 when Paul and his sister Edna handled all the business, they now have nine persons on the payroll. At the Campustown shop Mrs. Coe is assisted by Mrs. Francis Ellis, Mrs. Lily June McGinnis and Clarence Sallees.
At the downtown store there is Paul, Mrs. Mayo, Mrs. Ruth Pickens, Mrs. Lucy Eckoff (another sister), Mrs. Betty Teague and Darrell Yocum.
Right now the Coe staff is head over heels in Easter lilies, and weddings, and they are eying the rush period that Mother’s day will bring to their flower shops.
Mr. and Mrs. Coe and sons David and Stevie live at 2015 Friley Road. David is in the sixth grade and Steve in the first grade in Crawford school.
In 1955, Paul Coe became the authorized representative
of the "Rock of Ages" Monumental Service.
Advertisement from the 1958 telephone directory
Tribune, February 26, 1972
Sales were up in what Dave Coe calls an average year at Coe's House of Flowers. A family business, the firm was started in 1932 by Paul Coe. His wife Julia joined the business in 1937, son Dave joined in 1961 and Dave's wife Mary Lou joined the business in 1963.
Located on the corner of Sixth Street and Grand Avenue, Coe's offers fresh flowers for all occasions, pottery, candles and artificial flowers. Coe's belongs in the FTD (Florists Trans-World Delivery), of which Dave is the district representative for half of Iowa.
Four full-time and four part-time employees make up the total work force. Coe's offers delivery service with two trucks. Mary Lou Coe also handles home decorating jobs. While much of the business is from Ames, Dave Coe explained the business has good response from Nevada and Story City residents.