ALAMEDA -- After 34 years at Santa Clara Avenue and Broadway, Pam Earl is closing Olympic Florist on Saturday so she can slow down for a while.
"But if you want to be busy, just close up shop," she said with a smile and a bit of nostalgia.
Pam and husband Gary opened Olympic Florist on Santa Clara Avenue (at Broadway) in 1979 in the former location of Brenda's Flower Basket. They got started in the business when they bought Olympic Florist in the Pill Hill area of Oakland in 1975, a store they closed in the early 1980s.
Pam Earl, a military kid, lived in Alameda since 1968 and graduated from Alameda High School. Gary, who died of cancer in late 2011, came to the Bay Area from Utah.
"He was a florist all his life," she said.
He learned the trade from the father of his best friend, who had a flower shop.
"And that's how it all got started," she explained.
Olympic Florist and others flourished in the 1990s. After that, "the valleys got deeper than the peaks," Pam said.
The weak economy of the early 2000s was especially difficult, along with growing competition from grocery stores and discount retailers like Costco.
"All flower shops were affected by it," said the businesswoman. "The whole industry's changed. I remember when we had nine employees at one point. But that's when people didn't just stop by the grocery store to pick up flowers."
Olympic Florist has had a loyal following of customers over the years.
"We did everything for some families, from weddings to anniversaries to funerals. People thought that I was just going to keep doing this and be buried here," she joked.
After she and Gary bought a home in Suisun City in 1989, the commute to work took a lot of time and money, she said.
Of course, the trips were worth it for their regular clients. She mentioned one such regular client.
"He's from Lafayette, but he works in Alameda and has given us his business forever," she said. "We put together a special bouquet for him recently to celebrate the last anniversary he'll share with us.
"I'll really miss the flowers, customers and friends," Earl said. "I won't disappear since I still have family in town. I just won't be selling flowers here anymore."