50-year milestone

Alma’s Flowers will mark five decades in Purcell with a reception August 21. Founder Alma Huddleston, center, is pictured with the late Patti Wilhoit, left, and Amye Jennings, who now owns the business.

For 50 years now, Alma’s Flowers has been a Purcell fixture.

A fixture that almost wasn’t.

Alma Huddleston recalled how it all started when funeral director Pat Conner picked her to open a flower shop.

“You need to be our town florist,” he told her.

“Not me,” she would reply. “I don’t know anything about being a florist.”

At the time, Purcell had one flower shop which was run by an elderly lady Conner described as “between 80 and ancient.”

“He went on and on and everyday would ask ‘Do you have your job yet?’” Alma said.

Finally she told her husband, Bill, they better start praying and “see if God wants us to do something.”

While Bill encouraged her, Alma countered with “I don’t have the place to do it and I don’t have the money to do it.”

Bill’s reply always was “I think you should do it.”

The prayers were followed by visits with florists they both knew in Oklahoma City.

Both florists invited the couple to spend a day in their shops.

Alma visited with a wholesaler in Oklahoma City who suggested Alma attend a florist school.

So she went to Denver for that.

While she was gone, a brick building went up on Washington Avenue.

When Alma returned to Purcell, she noticed the building – and the “shotgun room” along one side.

She looked into the property and a workman told her she could rent the room.

“So that’s what I did,” she said. “Bill and I went to the city and bought a big commercial refrigerator that the shop still uses. The wholesaler helped me a lot.

“We got the shop set up and started working. It was very slow at first. We kept learning more and more.”

In 1972 or ‘73, the shop moved to its present location at 228 S. Lester Lane.

That building had previously housed an office, beauty shop and spa.

Alma and Bill took out a wall, creating one large room in the back. There they installed a large walk-in refrigerator.

The “kids” – the late Patti Wilhoit and Amye Jennings – began working for Alma in the shop then, learning the business from the ground up.

When Alma and Bill began thinking of retirement, they decided the flower shop would be Patti’s.

But her sudden death changed that plan and the shop became Amye’s.

“Amye was really young,” Alma said, “and she had worked in the shop with us. So we gave the shop to Amye.

“Her work is so good. She’s just done a bang up job with it.”

Alma is now in assisted living and has fond memories of the career she almost passed up.

“God has been good to me,” she said.

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