Florist pulling up roots on Frederick Road in Catonsville

Longtime Catonsville florist to close Frederick Road shop

After nearly 50 years of selling flowers to people in Catonsville from its location on Frederick Road, the Hilton Flower Shop will close its doors on Friday, Feb. 20.

Last Thursday, despite the upcoming St. Valentine's Day holiday, the shop was relatively calm, with a few customers trickling in to place orders. Soon, shop owner Tom Medicus, 65, will no longer arrange carnations and roses for longtime customers from the three-story colonial.

Although Medicus will continue to fill orders through his website, he will close up shop and sell the building, which has been in his family for generations.

He said the business was founded by his grandmother, Christine Medicus, in 1929 when her husband, Howard Medicus Sr., lost his job as an electrician during the Great Depression.

Tom Medicus' parents, G. Howard Medicus Jr. and Frances Medicus, began the business on Hilton Street in Baltimore City, which is how the shop got its name.

It moved to Paradise Avenue and Frederick Road 61 years ago, then to Bloomsbury Avenue. In 1966, the family relocated to the three-story colonial at 905 Frederick Road.

Medicus, who resides in the Dunmore community of Catonsville, said he joined the family business in 1974, when he left his job as a Howard County police officer to work alongside his parents.

"Tom ran the business, but my parents stopped by all the time," said Sue Medicus, Tom's sister, who runs a Liberty Tax business in the front of the shop. "They kept their hand in it."

When his parents died, he and three siblings inherited the property, "I paid my brothers and sisters some money... and it was tough to keep up," said the third generation Catonsville resident. "After a while it becomes a struggle."

Running the family florist business over the years, Medicus developed a reputation in the community.

"He's one of Catonsville's characters," said George Brookhart, a real estate broker, friend and customer. "You recognize him walking down the street."

Joseph Hands, 67, who worked at the shop while attending college from 1968 to 1972, said the shop has a "historic presence in the community."

"If you would ask me where I would buy flowers, I wouldn't know where [else] to tell you," Hands said. "I know there are other places to go... but I've been going to Hilton Flower Shop for so long."

Medicus said he is selling the property to the owners of Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland next door at 910 Frederick Road, who opened their office building in December. He expects they will tear the old building down.

"It's such an old building," Sue Medicus said, noting how the building is slightly tilted.

Tom Medicus said business has steadily declined over the years, making a storefront difficult to maintain.

"I'll miss waiting on people," Medicus said. "I have a lot of friends in this business."

He plans to continue selling flower arrangements, but is uncertain whether he will open another store or operate from his home.

"We're online now and we're trying to figure out whether to open another location," said Medicus, who plans to do more project-based arrangements for weddings and restaurants.

Online floral companies have made it difficult for more traditional florists businesses to turn a profit, he said.

"People love the Internet, but it has killed the small florist," said Medicus, whose operation has six employees.

Online companies take orders and collect a 20 percent fee, then send orders to florist shops to fill. That's made the business less lucrative, Medicus explained.

Although losing the financial burden of maintaining the old building will be a relief, Medicus acknowledged he might miss the building, which is full of family memories.

His daughter, Krystin Medicus, 34, one of his three children, was moved to tears when asked about the closing of the storefront.

"It's sad — it's been in my family forever," she said. "It's such a big part of our family and Catonsville, so it will be weird not seeing it anymore."

Krystin Medicus said she'll miss watching the Fourth of July parade from the top floor of the building, part of a long-standing family tradition.

"I think that's the biggest thing we'll miss — Fourth of July, because we're all here together," Sue Medicus agreed.

Craig Witzke, owner of the Candle Light Funeral Home by Craig Witzke, said he has been doing business with Medicus for the 30 years that he has been a funeral director.

"The Hilton Flower Shop has been a staple — they've been a huge part of the community," Witzke said, adding that he never wants to see a business close on Frederick Road.

Tom Medicus said he is looking forward, however, to spending more time with his family, particularly his two grandchildren in South Carolina, whose nicknames "Sweet Pea" and "Squeaks," are tattooed across his arm.

Medicus spends six days a week at the shop, which is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Because the busy seasons include holidays such as Christmas and Valentine's Day, Medicus hasn't had much time to spend with his family.

"The whole Christmas season, parties and everything, I miss most of them, because I have to work," Medicus said, adding that he steered his three children away from the business because he didn't want that life for them.

With the extra time, he'll be able to visit his grandchildren more frequently and cruise on his Harley Davidson motorcycle, he said.

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