Dick Lindsay wants to know why people don’t whistle anymore.
He answers his own question with, “I suppose they’re too busy.”
Still busy at the age of 90, the owner of the Flower Cottage at 30 N. Market St. goes to work every day at the business he started in 1950 in the old Carpenter warehouse on E. Main Street. In his current location since 1962 – a unique hobbit-like house built out of river rock – Lindsay and his son Grant operate the popular downtown floral shop where they still prepare all their own arrangements and Lindsay delivers them himself.
Lindsay, a friendly soft-spoken man, was born and raised in Cortez, joined the Navy in the 1940s and married Nelda Meistrell in 1948 (Nelda passed away in 2006). Lindsay and Nelda had two sons, Kent and Grant, and he taught himself the floral business at a time when jobs were scarce. He hasn’t looked back except to muse occasionally on how things have changed in Cortez in the past 50 years.
Pulling out a book from under the counter, Lindsay flips through pages of photos of specialty arrangements that once exemplified his craft. Styrofoam cores are all hand-sculpted, Lindsay explains, before being studded with flowers. One photo shows the instantly recognizable silhouette of Ute Mountain, layered with bands of sprayed flowers in black, brown and gray. More photos reveal an electric guitar completely covered in pink and white chrysanthemums; an American flag; a 3-dimensional horse’s head, complete with reins, designed to replicate the beloved animal of a dead cowboy; an Indian wedding basket with a broken band indicating the passing of a family member; a wagon wheel with one broken spoke; a cowboy boot with spur; a horseshoe trophy made for the Ute tribe; a miniature snowmobile, jeep, and truck; a pool table with cues and balls – all made from flowers.
Each arrangement was a personal tribute to a loved one and a testimonial to the artistry of the craftsman, says Lindsay. “This kind of stuff (floral art) is dying out. Very few florists do this kind of thing anymore because it takes time and it’s expensive.”
“It’s the same way in the cemetery,” he says. “It’s all artificial flowers now. People don’t have time anymore (to decorate graves). Back in my time, you’d go out there and spend time visiting with all the people you once knew.” It’s a quiet, pensive moment.
The Flower Cottage is an inviting cozy space, relaxed and welcoming, redolent with floral aromas. To walk through it is not unlike being in a candy store except that the feast is a visual one. Tools of the trade are everywhere: coolers full of arrangements and sprays in an array of colors ready for sale – buckets of alstroemeria, gladiolus spears, lilies and liastrus, roses, carnations and chrysanthemums memorial wreaths, sconces, centerpieces, wicker baskets galore, plate-size silk flowers, tiny stuffed animals, vases and balloons, even barbwire wreaths for the cowboys, and miles of ribbon in every imaginable color.
In the adjoining room, added on much later, there is a small neatly arranged greenhouse featuring an impressive assortment of potted houseplants. Ferns, begonias, succulents, African violets, philodendrons, cactus, jades, ficus, spiderplants, lilies and ivies grace the walls from floor to ceiling. The air is moist and cool, even on a 100-degree day in July.
When asked about challenges, Lindsay answered that getting fresh flowers in tiptop condition delivered to his store has never been easy, especially in the winter. He explained that many flowers were once grown in Denver greenhouses, and that the Colorado carnation had a reputation as being a high-grade durable flower. But now most of the flowers are grown in South America. A few specialty items, like the showy antherium, come from Hawaii.
But his biggest challenge, Lindsay sums up succinctly: “City Market, Safeway, Wal-Mart. Small businesses can’t compete.”
Nonetheless, the Flower Cottage has continued to maintain its hold in the hearts and pocketbooks of many local residents. Lindsay is quick to give credit to his son Grant, who now does the bulk of the floral arrangements. Lindsay enjoys delivering them. When asked about retirement, he replied, “I can’t see myself sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself.”
Dick Lindsay turned 90 on Sunday July 31.
Take a moment to stop by the Flower Cottage or call him at 565-3471. While there, enjoy the sights, smells, and stillness of a unique, locally owned downtown business and share a memory or a story. You might just leave whistling.