Thiensville - Even as a boy, Willard Riemer had plants on the mind. Little did he know at age 8, when he made a corsage for a cousin's bridal shower, it was the start of his career.
"It was my hobby," Riemer recalled, "flowers and shrubbery and trees."
With some imagination and a little entrepreneurial spirit, Riemer opened his own flower shop, Riemer's Flowers, in his hometown of Thiensville in 1972, through which he has channeled the area's collective salutations, apologies, professions of love, and sorrow - written in the leaves and pedals and barbs of arrangements as varied as the flora of a summer day.
"You can be creative," Riemer said from his workbench, poring over a holiday arrangement, clippers in hand. "No matter what the occasion, flowers say something to everybody."
Right: Riemer works on a floral arrangement during the runup to the holiday season.
At 72, Riemer has said quite a bit over the years with his flowers. He recalls making arrangements for baby showers, dances, graduations and weddings - on more than one occasion, for the same people as they grew up.
Even when the pressure of running the business took its toll, when in the early days of their business his wife was taking their then 18-month-old daughter along on deliveries, it was worth it to pursue his passion.
And when their daughters Julie and Jayne married, Riemer of course provided the flowers, outdoing himself with magnificent displays of hanging baskets, floral arches, elegant bouquets, and greenery exploding out of the cakes themselves.
"The highlight of my life," said Riemer, gazing at the framed wedding pictures of his family amid the flowers.
The flowers and frames will soon be gone from 136 N. Main Street.
Riemer's Flowers will close its doors for the last time in January, after the Thiensville Village Board voted in September to purchase the lot and raze the building to make way for economic development.
Yet, that doesn't mean Riemer is putting the shears away for good. He'll be starting soon in the flower department at Frenz Orchard and Garden Center.
"I'm happy to continue working on the same street," Riemer said, "just four blocks north."
And maybe at the new job he'll be able to relive one of the best moments of his career, when after relocating to Thiensville from a shop on Silver Spring, one of his old customers, having called shop after shop in the Milwaukee area, finally called the right one and instantly recognized Riemer's German accent.
"I've found you!" Riemer recalled her shouting through the phone. "I've found you! I've found you!"
- Michael Meidenbauer
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