Going out on a 'high note'
Old Theatre Flowers owner Pat McNally stands in front of the business on Main Street West in Norwich. Heading into retirement, McNally and his partner, Don Bruce, have decided to close the business September 30 after more than 32 years. JOHN TAPLEY/FOR THE NORWICH GAZETTE
Old Theatre Flowers will roll its end credits September 30.
The well known Norwich business is closing more than 32 years after it first opened its doors as owners Pat McNally and Don Bruce head into retirement.
The decision to close was a difficult one, McNally said, noting that he and his partner discussed it for the past couple of years.
“This year my body has just told me I need to start slowing down and living life a little more stress free,” he said.
Still, locking the door for the last time will be anything but easy.
“It'll be a sad day on September 30th walking out of here,” said McNally.
Other people clearly share that sentiment.
Many are posting messages to Old Theatre Flowers' Facebook page, expressing well wishes for McNally and Bruce and how much the business will be missed.
Leaving a job as the manager of McDonald's in Tillsonburg, McNally got into the florist business by working for a friend who had a flower shop in Tillsonburg.
“I discovered I had a hidden talent,” he said about being a florist.
After three years at his friend's shop, McNally learned that White's Flowers and Gifts in Norwich was for sale and he and Bruce decided to become business owners.
Opening in May 1985 in what had previously been a movie theatre on the south side of Main Street West, the business name paid tribute to the building's former use.
Besides Valentine's Day and Mothers' Day – the obvious busy times for florists - McNally and Bruce launched an annual Christmas open house their first year in business that became a Norwich tradition.
A self-described perfectionist, McNally said he loves being a florist, but it always means having to think ahead about “today, tomorrow, next week, the next holiday.”
“You're always thinking ahead of the game, it's non-stop.”
McNally said he has seen many changes and events in Norwich's business community over the past 32 years – from businesses opening and closing to fires that destroyed some of its architecture.
“The downtown is still booming, and I hope it always does.”
Building the business together, it was 15 years before McNally and Bruce took their first vacation.
“We worked hard,” McNally said. “I was dedicated to my job. I did and still would do anything for my customers.”
Many of those customers have become like family over the past three decades.
From births to funerals, Old Theatre Flowers has served people in the community and surrounding area at every turn.
“We've seen kids born, married, having kids of their own, grand kids and then losing members of their family,” said McNally.
Having that kind of relationship with customers is something McNally said he treasures.
“One of the most important things is to have good relationships with customers, provide good customer service and know their names,” he said. “Being part of the community and somebody's life, I don't even know the right words to describe it. I know they're going to miss me, but I'm going to miss all those relationships.”
While they explored the possibility of selling the business at its current location, that didn't work out.
McNally said in hindsight that may be a blessing because he sees ending the business rather than carrying on under new ownership as going out on a “high note.”
He said he and Bruce are thankful for the community's support and loyalty over the years.
Fresh flowers will be available up until the last day, but the business is clearing out its other stock and store fixtures between now and then.
Post September 30, McNally said he plans to take three months to relax and unwind.
“I'm just going to live each day, relax and enjoy it.”