STEUBENVILLE - Pam Thomas admits she gets a little, well, passionate, when she thinks about the family business.
She and her husband, Harry, own the Original Ed McCauslen Florist on North Fourth Street. They purchased it in 1986 from Harry's father, Harvey, who, with his uncle, Charles Harvey, had bought it in the 1960s from Ed and Bus McCauslen.
Harvey Thomas had gone to work for the McCauslen brothers as a delivery boy when he was 16 and still in high school. After graduating, he did a stint in the Army before coming back to work for them as a designer.
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS — Pam Thomas and her husband, Harry, say in a business like theirs, knowing your customers — and your customers knowing you — is paramount. The Thomases own the Original Ed McCauslen Florist in downtown Steubenville. They purchased the business in 1986 from Harry’s father, Harvey, who’d acquired it in the 1960s from Ed and Bus McCauslen. Features like the fireplace mantle, pictured above, are original to the shop.
-- Linda Harris
"As a child, Harry did the same thing," she said. "He came down here and started helping, doing what needed done. He went to the Marines, and when he came back we purchased the store from his father."
She knows the business and its history inside-out, from the original punched-tin ceiling and fireplace mantel to the ornate gold mirror so prized by Martha Huscroft McCauslen, mother of Ed and Bus and whose family had at one time owned Huscroft Florist. She said her father-in-law told her that Martha, in her later years, would sit in a corner of the shop, watching people come in and out.
"History, that's what you have here," she said. "We have a lot of older customers still who knew Ed and Bus. They've come in and said things like, 'Oh, Ed did the flowers for my wedding.' We still have Ed's customers as our customers."
She figures there's a reason for that.
"We value our customers," she said. "We put our heart and soul into knowing what our customers want, how our customers feel. We know our customers, and we know what they like. We have customers who'll call in and just say, 'Just tell Harry, he knows what I like.' They put a lot of trust, a lot of faith into his designs. That's the way to run a business, to know your customers."
Her husband, Harry, actually studied design at the Indianapolis Design School. She said he does a lot of design work himself, though they have three very capable designers on staff who also do outstanding work.
She handles the bookkeeping and some of the detailing, like "tipping" flowers with a touch of glitter. Their daughter, Melissa Roberts, has been working with them as well, learning the ropes just as her father and grandfather did before her. Son Corey, a Marine, lives in California.
"Melissa's starting like Harry started, at the bottom and working her way up," she said. "She doesn't design, but she's got a good eye and she's got passion. She's got heart, too. I hope that she (takes over) someday, but I'm not sure."
She said she feels blessed that her customers "keep coming back, but they keep coming back for a reason."
"Our customers care about us, and we care about them," she said. "That's what builds a business - our customers stick with us because of how we treat them. Whatever goes out of here, we make sure it's right because we feel like they're our family. We know them, we know what they like. We treat them the way we would want to be treated."
She said they also support a range of community activities, including the United Way, Salvation Army and area churches and schools. They've even loaned their live plants out to help them stage special events.
"We try to give everything that extra-special touch," she said. "If it's important to our customers, it's important to us. We've had customers who've (ordered) out of town come back and tell us, 'They're is nothing like you guys - you guys have spoiled us.'"
At one time they had a second location, in Weirton, but sold it in 2005 to focus their attention on the Steubenville store.
"You have to have a strong foundation," she said. "If you have a strong foundation, you can build from that."
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)