Valentine’s Day is traditionally a day when sweethearts express their love for one another by giving tokens of their affection.
For many men, that means going with the tried-and-true gift of flowers, and entrusting this highly sensitive mission to very valued and experienced people. For , this leads to one of their busiest days of the year.
Owner Bob Dinucci observes that Valentine’s Day is the second busiest day for his business, after Mother’s Day. “I expect that we will sell about 5,000 roses this holiday.”
Making people happy with the gift of beautiful blossoms is something that Lane and Lenge Florists has been doing for a long time – an incredibly long time, judging by today’s quixotic retail climate. This year, Lane and Lenge celebrates its 100th anniversary in the Hartford area. Bob Dinucci sat down with Patch recently to reminisce about the business and his parents, in particular his father Guido, who died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 90.
It was in 1912 that Bob Dinucci’s maternal grandfather Frank Lenge opened Lenge Flower Shop on the corner of Market and Temple Streets, where Constitution Plaza now stands. Dinucci’s mother Lucy and her brother worked in the shop helping their father.
Lucy married Guido Dinucci in 1947; Guido began working in the flower shop with his father-in-law as Lucy stayed home rearing the couple’s children. When the construction of Constitution Plaza forced the closing of the shop, the family bought Broadribb Florists, which was located on Asylum Avenue.
A few years later, in the early sixties, Guido Dinucci, who had taken control of the business after his father-in-law’s retirement, decided to merge with Lane Florists on Pratt and Trumbull Streets to form Lane and Lenge Florists. The business prospered, catering to the large, thriving Hartford businesses surrounding them.
Bob Dinucci joined his father in the business after having graduated college in 1978, in the era when Secretaries Week used to be “as big as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.” He also recalled that the robust business they had enjoyed in downtown Hartford changed quickly after the economic crash of the late 80s. By then they had already opened a second location on LaSalle Road.
Soon afterwards the family decided to close the Hartford location and concentrate on West Hartford Center. Dinucci noted that this was when the florist had to transition from a business that handled corporate accounts to one that served a more suburban clientele, catering more to weddings and funerals. The Dinuccis continued on LaSalle Road until three-and-a-half years ago when they decided to move the business to its present location at 214 Park Road.
What prompted the move? While Dinucci admits that a smaller rent was part of the equation, he also states that their business was never reliant on a lot of retail foot traffic. “There was never a lot of walk in traffic for our business. It was all done by phone. I think we would get people looking in the windows, especially at night, but as far as people coming into the store, there really wasn’t a lot of walk-in trade.”
Nowadays, the phone rings frequently with orders for weddings and special occasions. The economy has taken its toll on many of Dinucci’s competitors, but he remains positive that his business has built a solid reputation with its customer service and exceptional product.
He recalls how one customer hired them for her daughter’s wedding because she had never forgotten how they had been the only florist in town willing to do the floral arrangements for her sister’s funeral many years ago over a Memorial Day weekend.
“That kind of stuff is important to us,” notes Dinucci.
Quality product is also a priority, with orchids being flown in from Hawaii and a variety of local and online wholesalers supplying the flowers. Once the flowers arrive in the shop, arranging them is an art – and Dinucci credits his designers with keeping up with current trends and creating high-quality arrangements. They handle about 100 weddings a year and the store’s bridal consultant, Joni Suppin, keeps herself current on the latest bridal designs.
Staying true to his quest for the latest trends, Dinucci has also just begun carrying a line of “Wall Gardens” from a French-based company. Billed as “wall art that’s alive and growing,” these framed plant arrangements can be hung either on an interior or exterior wall with little maintenance other than an occasional watering. The various arrangements will be available for order through his website in a few weeks.
Discussing the recent loss of his father, it’s obvious that Dinucci is having a difficult time believing that such a vital, quick-witted person is gone. “My father had a great sense of humor and I think that’s one of the reasons my mother loved him so much. She would always laugh at everything he said. He was also my connection to history in Hartford. He would remember everything about the city. He could tell you something about every past company.”
And what did Dinucci learn from his father about running a business? “It’s probably similar to what guys who go into the family restaurant business learn. You learn about waste and perishability, knowing how to buy for the holiday and not overbuy. I also learned about trying to keep on top of things. My father was always interested in different styles of things.”
It’s fitting that Dinucci’s career has involved so many in displays of romantic feelings and commitments as well as expressions of sympathy and loss. He tells the story of how his mother Lucy, as a young woman, volunteered on the cancer ward of St. Francis Hospital during World War II. She befriended an Italian woman and she would visit and chat with the woman frequently.
One day, Lucy noticed a photo of a young man next to the patient’s bed, and she commented on how handsome he was. The woman proudly identified the man in the photo as her son, who was serving overseas. She also said that Lucy was the type of girl she would like her son to marry. A few weeks later, Lucy learned that the woman died.
After the war, Lucy was set up on a date with a returning serviceman, named Guido Dinucci. One thing led to another, and one day, as they were going through some of Guido’s old family photos, they came across a photo of Guido’s mother. Lucy was shocked to recognize her friend from the St. Francis cancer ward. The woman’s wish had come true. Lucy and Guido married six months after their first date.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Lane and Lenge is open Monday through Friday – 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Saturdays – 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The store’s phone numbers are 860-523-6220 and 860-832-9554. For more information, go to the store’s website: www.laneandlenge.com.