Many Daytonians may be surprised to learn that the Old North Dayton neighborhood, located northeast of downtown Dayton north of the Mad River, is home to some of the largest floral businesses in this region of the country. Among these are two florists that have been in business more than 100 years: Furst the Florist and Oberer’s Flowers, both located on Troy Street across the street from one another.

Joseph Furst, a German immigrant, started his business growing vegetables and flowering plants in his original greenhouse in 1905. With the success and growth of the business he opened a small flower shop.

“In the early years flowers were delivered by horse and buggy,” says Jeanna Furst, the general manager at Furst the Florist. “Joseph took the buggy downtown to the farmers market every week.”

Today, Furst the Florist has grown to 70 employees with multiple greenhouses on the property on Troy Street. And it is still family owned and operated with the third, fourth and fifth generations of the Furst family all employed today.

Across the street, Oberer’s Flowers remains among the largest and oldest florists in the area. Carl Oberer, also a German immigrant, opened his business in the early 1890s after buying a plot of land on Troy Street to grow vegetables. Like his counterpart, Joseph Furst, Carl drove his wares to market in downtown Dayton and quickly gained a reputation as having some of the best-tasting vegetables in the city.

“In 1922, Carl decided he could make more money selling flowers,” says Keith Fields, a longtime employee of Oberer’s and one of the three current owners. “The immigrants that came here needed to find work or a trade. Carl soon realized he could grow flowers himself and then for other florists in other states.”

According to Ohio History Central, by the early 1900s, about 450,000 immigrants lived in Ohio, most of them from Germany and other eastern European countries. Furst and Oberer’s are two of many immigrant-owned businesses that originally opened north of Dayton and remain there today.

“We are within 150 feet from the original farm,” says Fields. “The family eventually decided to clear the vegetable fields and put up greenhouses for flowers.”

By the 1970s the floral industry had transformed and it became easier to order product from across the country and the world.

“Our greenhouses began to expand,” Furst says. “Our customers might be surprised to know that we have 12 greenhouses on our property today.”

Furst says the second surprise for customers is the large showroom that offers not only flowers but also unique gifts.

Now with five locations, Oberer’s Flowers is known for offering great value on unique flowers. The focus is ensuring that what customers order from a photo they see online is exactly what they receive. And, as with most businesses, the internet changed the way florists interact with customers.

“Most of our orders (about half) still come from the phone,” Fields says. “Another 10 percent is walk-in and the rest are internet orders.”

Furst hopes people who have never visited the florists in the area will stop by to see what businesses offer today.

“There are some wonderful florists in Old North Dayton,” Furst says. “It’s something we’d love everyone to know.” 

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