Walk into the Petals 'N Posies flower shop in Bel Air, and you will experience a feast for your eyes and nose ― the sight of flowers of many colors, such as pink, white, red, yellow and purple, and the smell of fresh flowers on display throughout the store.
Petals 'N Posies is owned by Betty Jean “B.J.” Frew, of Street, and the business turns 40 years old in 2020; the shop has been in the Del Plaza shopping center at Conowingo Road and Moores Mill Road for all four decades.
Frew, 76, and her staff stayed busy Wednesday afternoon as they helped customers, received deliveries and processed orders ahead of Valentine’s Day, which falls Friday.
Customer Matt Jergensen came in seeking a Valentine’s Day floral arrangement for his wife. He has purchased flowers for the holiday from Petals 'N Posies each year for the past six years.
“I like the fact that it’s a local business,” the Bel Air resident said. “When you come in, everyone is very nice, very knowledgeable; it’s a very pleasant experience.”
He praised the staffers who typically have “some really good ideas” for floral arrangements, and noted that “they usually seem to have a good selection” of flowers. Jergensen also praised Petals ‘N Posies’ delivery service, noting the Valentine’s Day arrangements are delivered to his wife while she is at work.
Frew said her business has the motto: “quality that’s remembered.” It was not a certainty, when she opened the shop in 1980, that it would remain viable for 40 years, though, and it would be the only original business in Del Plaza.
“My father said to me, when I told him I wanted to start my own business, he said, ‘You’ve done a lot of dumb things in your life, but this is the dumbest,’” Frew recalled.
Frew’s father, Arthur Sawyer, helped her get the store up and running, despite his reservations. The facility was “just concrete block” when she acquired it in late 1979, and father and daughter worked to install drywall, paint, hang wallpaper, decorate, even build the service counters, before opening.
The shopping center has seen many tenants over the years; Frew recalled when entities such as Harford Pharmacy, which is now in Hickory, and the Social Security Administration — now in Abingdon — were in Del Plaza.
Petals 'N Posies is meant to be a “destination store," according to Frew. The location off of Moores Mill, one of the busiest east-west roads in Harford County, and its proximity to several schools, is ideal, she noted.
The store typically has six employees, including Frew, although the workforce goes up to nine during busy times of the year. Those include Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, prom and wedding seasons in the spring and summer and high school homecoming season in the fall.
“If you get winter like this [year], and there’s no snow or ice to keep people in, we pretty much stay busy,” Frew said.
Her store also provides floral arrangements for funerals, plus people buy flowers for birthdays, to let someone know they are thinking of them, when meeting someone for lunch, and many men will come in to buy flowers for their wives.
“Men still love to take their wives flowers ... romance is not dead yet,” Frew said.
Her business has, in the past, provided decorations for parties and holidays in the form of floral arrangements. She and her staff would, during the early years, also go out to events in costumes with balloons and sing and dance; Frew noted that service “really put us on the map.”
Frew grew up in Towson, and her family moved to Harford County in 1966, building a house in the High Point Manor community in Forest Hill.
An inherited love for flowers
Frew said she inherited her love of flowers from her mother, Josephine Sawyer, who was a master gardener, raised flowers and gardened around the family home.
“You have to be born with it,” she said of qualities, such as artistry and creativity, required for creating floral arrangements that please customers.
Frew held several jobs before opening the flower shop, including working as cancer lab technician at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, putting together the obituary and wedding pages for The Aegis newspaper and then at The Greenery, a florist, garden center and hardware store off of Emmorton Road near Abingdon.
She decided to open her own flower shop after working at The Greenery for four years, Frew said. She taught floral design courses at Harford Community College for eight years, holding classes and demonstrations at her store.
The business sponsors a state-champion men’s recreational softball team, named Petals ‘N Posies after the store.
Frew’s shop has been a past sponsor when NFL games on “Sunday Night Football” aired on the Comcast network in the Philadelphia area — Frew recalled when she and her husband, Barney, were selected to travel with the Philadelphia Eagles when the team played on the road in Arizona.
“They just wined and dined us for four days,” Frew said.
Barney and B.J. Frew were married in 1986; Barney is retired after having worked for The Aegis for 40 years, serving as circulation manager, in the printing section and many other duties. Barney Frew also helps his wife with her shop.
“He’s helped me through a lot of it,” she said. “It’s not easy to own a business.”
Frew said she still loves the business after 40 years, describing her staff as “very creative, very talented.”
“We give good service, we deliver and we try to make our customers happy with what they want,” she said.
‘All family here’
Manager Bonnie DuBree has spent 25 years with Petals 'N Posies and praised the “family feel” of the business.
“We’re all family here, and it’s comfortable and it’s hometown,” she said. “We want to treat all of our customers like family.”
DuBree said she enjoys interacting with customers, noting that “they want to be able to come in and tell you their story about what’s going on, and hope that you can give them some happiness.” She said she loves to see customers brighten when flowers are delivered to them, whether they are arrangements for weddings, or sent to express sympathy during times of grief and loss.
“It’s great to see people smile and know they’re getting what they’re paying for,” she said.
DuBree, 48, of Aberdeen, said she started working in the florist business when she was 17 years old and in high school in Baltimore County. Petals 'N Posies is the third flower shop for which she has worked.