Almost 20 years into the careers they went to college for, sisters Sandy Sack and Sue Roberts quit their jobs, bought Schramm's Flowers - one of the city's oldest businesses - and set about learning the florist industry.
They knew they could sell together. Their first job, at ages 6 and 9, was peddling vegetables from their aunt's farm door-to-door in the Trilby area of West Toledo.
And they weren't terribly worried about their lack of expertise in flowers. Mrs. Sack had been a computer systems analyst for 18 years, first at what is now DaimlerChrysler AG's Toledo Machining plant in Perrysburg Township and then at Finkbeiner Pettis Strout, Inc. Ms. Roberts had been a registered nurse for almost as long at Toledo Hospital.
“We're girls. We can figure it out,” Ms. Roberts said.
“And in our case, if we make a mistake, nobody dies and the computers don't go down,” her sister added. “Obviously, there's not one thing in this shop you need to live.”
Apparently they didn't make too many mistakes.
Mrs. Sack and Ms. Roberts more than doubled sales to about $500,000 last year, up from about $200,000 when they took over six years ago.
About a year after buying Schramm's in 1994, the sisters moved it to what some suppliers say is one of the best locations in the area: Cricket West on Central Avenue, a high traffic area in the heart of West Toledo, just blocks from Ottawa Hills.
They've built their gift department of candles, soaps, hooked rugs, aroma therapy scents, elaborate greeting cards, and Beanie Babies into one-third of their sales. Gifts accounted for about 5 per cent of sales when they bought the shop.
Displaying more unique giftware in the shop led to more walk-in customers, which in turn appeared to increase flower sales, said Denny Connell of Fairest Flowers, Inc. The Temperance greenhouse sells lilies to 60 area florists.
About 25 per cent of flower sales at Schramm's are to walk-in customers who pick up a bouquet. Arrangements for occasions such as funerals and birthdays account for half of flower sales and parties and corporate accounts are 25 per cent.
The sisters, who almost never arrange flowers themselves, are an exception in the industry where shops tend to be owned by designers, said Dan Fleming, manager at Cleveland Plant & Flower Co., a wholesaler in Springfield Township.
But Mrs. Sack and Ms. Roberts said part of their success has been immersing themselves in bookwork, sales, cleaning the cooler, and dusting the shelves - duties which people who love designing sometimes neglect - and leaving flower arranging to employees who have the flair.
Their decision to go into business together was more about being their own boss and in control of their own destiny than it was specifically about flowers. Still, both love gardening so much they call it therapy.
One motivating factor was their mother, Marjorie Shapler, who had owned the Greenhouse Miniature Shop in Sylvania.
Over the years, Mrs. Sack often suggested they operate a restaurant, and Ms. Roberts always said no, thinking about all the dishes to wash. But when Schramm's, which was where Mrs. Sack bought flowers, came up for sale, they bit with full awareness that they would work “a lot more hours making a lot less money” than they had in their jobs.
The shop dates to 1872 and was started on Bernard Schramm's farm on Lagrange Street.
Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, 541 North Superior St., Toledo, Ohio 43660.