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40 years of flowers for the Peoria area

Just off War Memorial Drive in Peoria Heights sits a quaint little flower shop that has been a part of the Peoria community for nearly 40 years.

Gregg Florist has provided floral arrangements and decorations to the area since 1953, but has been under owner Dan Callahan’s management since 1978.

“We purchased it from a family that had started the business about 10 years before, and their last name was Gregg. It was a simple, easy name to pronounce, we thought why not just keep it simple and leave it that way,” Callahan said. “That was 40 years ago next month. [On] St. Patrick’s day, it’ll be 40 years.”

The Peoria-native pursued his college degree in Champaign before coming back to his roots to buy the shop.

“I grew up right in the neighborhood of the store here. I went to [University of Illinois], and my goal was to get a master’s in architecture, but I ended up stopping at the end of having my bachelor’s and decided that this was the career I wanted,” Callahan said.

Since buying the business in 1978, Callahan said he’s seen a myriad of changes occur in Peoria and the shop itself.

“It has been a revolution in every way, shape and form,” Callahan said. “[When we opened], we had very few gift items; the silk flowers we had in and artificial things were just light years more primitive and lower end than what we do now. [Now], we have our flowers come weekly from overseas … To get daffodils and tulips and hyacinths and lilies from Holland every week, that was unfathomable back in that day. [The store is] also wildly different. What we do is primarily service now and high-end design work … [where we’re] working with the people about their themes and logistics and creative ideas. It’s the world of pinterest.”

According to Callahan, he takes pride in his products’ ability to enhance big life moments.

“Nowadays, whenever you invite a girl out to a prom or homecoming, or whatever, there’s some kind of specialness about it, the venue or how you announce it,” Callahan said. “Well, every one of our flowers, we like to think, is one of those portals to a relationship or some [special] experience.”

Throughout his time servicing the community, Callahan said he’s had the opportunity to display his products for huge events like the Patti Labelle concert a few years ago and every Peoria Symphony Orchestra performance as well.

“They contacted us from the Civic Center for flowers for Patti Labelle’s concert, and we thought they were going to have them in her dressing room,” Callahan said. “So we made a beautiful bouquet – they wanted them to be all white Casablanca lilies. Well it turned out there were thousands of people in the audience, and [the bouquet] was on stage … so that’s probably one [of our proudest moments].”

While Callahan said he appreciates other shops and their products, he believes that his shop’s creativity and history bring people back.

“There are lots of talented people, I hope there always are in every field,” Callahan said. “Why someone would come here as opposed to another place is because of that familiarity thing. We’ve been in the same spot for almost 50 years. So when they walk in the door, it’s kind of like ‘Cheers.’ Everybody knows your name.”

As Gregg Florist continues to move past its 40-year anniversary, Callahan said his biggest goal now is to introduce the shop’s experiences to the younger generations.

“I think what we would like to do is re-introduce, or introduce for the first time, the younger generation to the joy of using a local source for something that’s meaningful in their lives,” Callahan said. “Our number one thing is to get [the younger] generation into the store and to feel what it’s all about.”

Gregg Florist is located at 1015 E. War Memorial Dr and is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

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