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'We're in the Emotions Business'

Penny's Flowers has been a Glenside staple for years ... and it might be a little crowded today.

'We're in the Emotions Business' 'We're in the Emotions Business' 'We're in the Emotions Business'


If it’s a penny for your thoughts and a flower for your love, Penny’s Flowers has cornered the market in Glenside. From the very start, exactly 75 years ago, Vincent “Penny” Pannepacker knew the community needed a friendly store to buy plants and flowers to celebrate special occasions, both happy and sad.

“We’re in the emotions business and help people say something,” said Dottie Pannepacker.

For proms, weddings and parties, they give customers the floral means to celebrate. On sadder family events, such as funerals or when friends are sick, arrangements or plants send condolences and love.

The store got its name because the first owner, Vincent Pannepacker, was nicknamed Penny.

“He was a smart business man,” said Vincent’s daughter in law, Dottie Pannepacker. In the 1930s, he was working in a hardware store named Turner’s, which had fallen onto some hard times.

“The owner was having a hard time paying his bills, so he said, ‘Let me see what I can do to help.’ It was around a holiday, Easter, I think, and he brought in plants. They did so well that the store was able to pay its bills,” Dottie said.

The hardware store owner told Vincent he should open his own store ...

At first, it was plants and some flowers. Vincent began with a small store in what is now the Glenside Diner, and then moved to a bigger location in Elkins Park. It was the 1950s when he opened in the Keswick Avenue location where the store still stands.

“It was added onto over the years with two major additions,” Dottie said.

Dottie is somewhat of the family spokesperson. She married into the flower and plant empire 41 years ago. She now works at the family store, which is co-operated by her husband, Bob and his brother, Rick. In all, there are five children, and four of them went into the flower business. Their children don’t work at the store, but her grandchildren do enjoy visiting, Dottie said.

“My 7-year-old grandson likes to come in and help water the plants and make boxes,” she said with a laugh. It’s yet to be determined if he’ll follow in the footsteps on his great grandfather and operate the store.

When Vincent married his wife, Emily, he sent her to a design school in Philadelphia to add a professional florist to the store. Now Penny’s Flowers has many stylists, drivers, horticulturists and staff working there. There are at least 25 employees in the slow season and up to 45 around holidays, Dottie said. The Pannepacker family is proud that they keep so many people in Glenside employed and generate revenue in the community.

“It’s a real family business. We have people who worked here part-time in high school come back years later as customers. We have retired police and firefighters as drivers,” she said.

The family is no stranger to hard work and plenty of hours. In the warmer months, the entire front of the store is a garden of annuals and vegetables and herbs for sale.

“It’s very seasonal. We have to be here seven days a week in the spring and summer to take care of the plants and water the flowers. Around holidays, like Valentine’s Day, we’re here late working on orders,” Dottie said.

This month is the most popular flower giving holiday of the year, she said. Roses are the most popular to give to sweethearts for a Valentine, although Penny’s carries many alternatives.

“We have something that will fit the budget of just about any pocketbook. You can say ‘I love you’ with a single red rose, and some people like to be a little flashier and order three or a dozen roses,” she said.

Roses are also the most expensive option this time of year, but Dottie said it’s not just because more people want them.

“Think about what goes into that little rose in a vase on your desk,” she said.

Because roses are in demand more than any other day of the year, producers start early with preparations. They cut back buds and sacrifice roses that would otherwise be fine to sell so they can develop more long-stem roses. Growers hire more people, and then the finished product is shipped to cold climates, such as Glenside, from South or Central America.

“But it’s more the expression of love than what you’re sending,” she said.

For her money, Dottie prefers lilacs and orchids, but that was a difficult question to answer, she said.

“Although, there are lots of lovely flowers. If you know your sweetheart’s favorite, then that’s special,” Dottie said.

Although she works in a flower and plant ship, Dottie still enjoys receiving arrangements, but usually not on Valentine’s Day and other major holidays.

“My husband sends me flowers at off times of the year when they’re not expected. Like, he’ll remember that our anniversary is so many days away and sends flowers,” she said.

And yes, the flowers on random weeks has contributed to the success of their 41 years of marriage.

“And a sense of humor,” she said.

Doubtless, marrying into the right family helped, too.

For more information, visit www.pennysflowers.com or call 800-767-9130. The store is located at 263 North Keswick Ave. in Glenside.  

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