Linke’s Flowers: Well over a century of service
ALPENA — A July 1973 Alpena News story noted Charles Sands and his wife, Henrietta, and daughter, Johanna, opened a floral and vegetable store in their White Street residence in 1873.
Johanna fell in love and married Alfred Linke, who was already in the floral profession. The two businesses combined in approximately 1907. The shop was then located at the intersection of 5th Avenue and Mirre Street, just south of Washington Avenue.
Future Linke family members participated in the business’s growth. One of the family’s children was Margaret (Linke) Knechtel. With the passing of Arthur Linke, the son of Alfred, she took over the shop’s operation in 1963.
Knechtel had an array of community and national floral involvement and recognition. For years, Linke’s Flowers was noted for their pumpkin carving contest and growing and donating poinsettias and lilies to hospitalized patients and worthy organizations during Christmas and Easter. She was elected to office with state and national floral organizations.
When Ronald Regan was elected, she and her husband, Harold, flew to Washington, D.C., where she designed arrangements for the inauguration.
Linke’s Flowers was known for its popular post-Thanksgiving Christmas open house and for decades designing and sponsoring floats in various Alpena parades.
An Alpena County History Facebook page surfaced numerous accounts of individuals who were employed at Linke’s Flowers. Several continued their career at other regional flower and gift shops.
Former Alpena resident Jenni Ritzler Johns, of Temperance, Michigan, worked at Linke’s in her preteen and teen years and, later, as a young adult, when she returned from U.S. Army active duty in Germany. She began by dusting giftware shelves, and later into various customer service roles.
Residing near Linke’s, Johns recalls the building complex being a multi-story building with two massive greenhouse wings. She cited the delightful and constant floral aroma throughout the complex. During Linke’s annual Christmas open house, which attracted throngs of customers. Johns dressed in a snowman suit designed by her mother.
“The store was jam-packed with customers and staff,” she stated. “It was a hot environment in the snow suit. I took periodic breaks to remove my outfit and cool off in the shop’s massive walk-in floral storage cooler.”
Over the years, Linke’s experienced several fires.
Alpena News accounts revealed a 1989 dumpster fire next to the storage portion of the building. It was quickly brought under control with minor damage. However, in August 1997, a massive midnight fire engulfed the main building and adjacent greenhouses. The fire was responded to by the Alpena and Wilson Township fire departments, as well as city and state police and the sheriff’s department.
After the fire, an investigation by the state fire marshal found the fire appeared to have begun as an electrical malfunction in the separating wall.
In just a little over a month, Linke’s Flowers moved to a temporary M-32 location, just across from Bob’s Gun Shop.
By May 1998, Linke’s Flowers located a new permanent location at 1011 W. Washington Ave., just off Ripley Boulevard.
Facing health challenges, Knechtel turned operations over to family members. In September 2000, she died.
The Washington Avenue store has since closed. The vacant Mirre Street lot periodically is offered for sale.
The century-long memory of Linke’s Flowers lives on with hundreds of former employees, customers, and suppliers.
Perhaps, there still is a cherished Linke’s flower or prom corsage pressed and stored in a box or memory scrapbook.
Jeffrey D. Brasie is retired health care CEO and frequently writes op-eds and feature stories. He is a former Alpena resident and resides in suburban Detroit.