PANAMA CITY — When Harrison McElheney set Tuesday, June 11, as the date for the ribbon-cutting at the reopening of Hallmark Flower Shoppe, heavily damaged by Hurricane Michael, he was well aware that the store was filled with family tradition but had no idea there was a significance to that date.
Neither did his father, Randall, who grew up around the shop his parents started. At least not until Monday night when he reached out to his best friend’s brother to make sure he would be there Tuesday.
“I invited Rex Harrison to come to the grand reopening and he said he wouldn’t be able to do it because it was he and his wife’s anniversary,” Randall McElheney said Tuesday after the ribbon-cutting. “And that set off a light in my head that if today (Tuesday), the day of the grand reopening, was his anniversary, that was the day of the triple wedding that happened 31 years ago where he, his brother William and their sister were all married in the same ceremony.”
What made the triple wedding of the Harrison siblings even more memorable for all involved is that the Tuesday night before the big day, the Hallmark shop erupted in flames and burned to the ground, destroying every flower that had been ordered for the event.
“We immediately moved the flower shop and pharmacy (Cooper’s Drugs) within 48 hours to another location that happened to be available,” Randall McElheney said. “So we didn’t really feel like we could do the wedding but William, my best friend and one of the three siblings who got married, encouraged us to do it because he knew it was a big revenue-producing event.
“And we were able to get the flowers and pull it off.”
Harrison McElheney wasn’t even born 31 years ago, but the history of the shop at U.S. Business 98 and Cove Boulevard is embedded in his brain, given that it was started by his grandparents and there were thoughts of closing it until he was called in to perform CPR on it about five years ago. So cutting the ribbon on a new building with his wife Savanna on Tuesday was special.
“I’ve been here ever since before my wedding, and I never really saw myself doing this,” McElheney said Tuesday as he sat in a new “wedding room” designed to give brides a comfortable and private place to discuss their floral arrangements. “I really didn’t know what I was going to do after high school, but this turned out really well, I like it and I enjoy the work that comes with it.”
There was talk of closing the faltering business about five years ago, but when Randall told his wife Karen about that idea, she didn’t like it.
“I went home and told Karen, and she said, ‘Randall, your son is getting married in like a year, there’s no way you’re going to close that flower shop,’ ” McElheney said.
So he asked his son to take a look at the business and see if there was a way to make it profitable.
“He did that and he did it so well, determined what the shortcomings were and increased the profitability, that he decided he kind of liked this place.”
And now, with a new building carrying his touches, Harrison McElheney said it finally feels like it’s his business and he’s ready to add more history to it.
“It’s good that we’re able to reopen like this and that there’s a hometown place where people can get their flowers, and get them just the way they like them,” he said. “When I first got here, it wasn’t mine at all, it was already here.
“And now that we’re able to remodel, do some of the things I wanted to do, it’s pretty good.”