Stillwater News Press

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August 19, 2012

Colonial Florist founder/owner Jim Burtschi understands flower power

STILLWATER, Okla. — “Flowers are the source of everything,” Colonial Florist owner/founder Jim Burtschi said.

Plants are the only organism that converts light energy to food and produce all the foods that animals eat. Plants are the beginning of the oxygen cycle, using photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and water into energy and oxygen.

“We can’t eat without flowers,” he said.

Flowers also have been Burtschi’s life source for a few days more than 50 years. Burtschi founded Colonial Florist, 401 S. Washington St., in July 1962.

The floral industry has evolved in 50 years, Burtschi said. In 1962, 90 percent of the flowers he sold at his store came from America. Today, 90 percent are imported from other countries.

“The quality is so much better now,” he said.

The method for receiving orders from other cities and states also has charged, Burtschi said. Telegraph brought those requests in 1962. It changed to telephone, fax and computer e-mails over the years.

“Everything goes through the computer now,” he said.

He has seen his business grow from just flowers to flowers, gifts and Oklahoma State University licensed merchandise.

Starting from seed

It seems as if Burtschi always had a knack for growing things.

When he was 5- or 6-years old, Burtschi planted an avocado seed next to stairs in the backyard of his parents’ house in Forth Worth, Texas.

“My mom walked out of the back door one day and there was this funny little plant growing. She didn’t know what it was,” Burtschi said. “It was my avocado seed. It had come up.”

His green thumb extended to peach seeds, too. He planted one in his father’s vegetable garden. It sprouted too.

“He had to leave it grow because I had planted it,” Burtschi said. The family took the peach tree with them when it moved to another house nearby.

“My dad said, ‘I should’ve known you were going to be a florist when you started doing that as a child,’ ” Burtschi said. “That was during World War II.”

The family moved to Stillwater when Burtschi was in high school.

Burtschi’s interest in plants was re-fertilized while working at Inciardi’s Greenhouses and Nursery, which was a peach pit’s throw from what is now Colonial Florist.

Inciardi’s was growing hothouse tomatoes and delivering them to grocery stores in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Burtschi said. It also grew potted plants that TG&Y variety stores sold.

“I learned everything down in that greenhouse,” he said. “He had me practically managing it by the time I got out of high school.”

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