As Studley Flower Gardens celebrates 90 Years in business this year, President and second-generation owner of Studley Flower Gardens, Jeffrey Meulenbroek takes a trip down memory lane and shares his story, reflecting on how ‘Growing Up Studley’s’ and life in the family business shaped and prepared him for his role in the business today.
Growing up at Studley’s offered an ever-changing world to explore right in my own backyard. The greenhouses had benches and plants that towered above me as I ran, exploring the maze of aisles. Our family veggie garden was beside the back greenhouse. My mother’s beloved raspberry patch was behind the greenhouse, near the Cocheco river. A pile of concrete bench tops were stacked behind the greenhouse, providing me a fort to survey the whole scene from above. I rode my bike or cruised with my plastic three-wheeler, The Green Machine, around the parking lot. I had the run of the place!
“If you need some money, I’ve got a job for you.” That was the refrain I would hear growing up. My parents were always busy and working. I learned early on that there was always something that needed to be done, or could be done. I remember folding rose boxes while watching TV, filling water tubes in the kitchen sink, or folding the monthly statements and stuffing them into envelopes. Eventually, I would work some Saturdays or after school on a regular basis. I loved the solitude of the greenhouse in March, transplanting seedlings into larger pots as snow quietly tapped on the greenhouse roof above. In June, I crawled behind my father as he laid out annuals in clients’ gardens, planting each in a small hole while blisters grew on my hands. In July, I got a sunburn on my neck and that strip on my back where my t-shirt lifted as I crouched over, pinching hundreds of mum plants to promote a bushier, fuller plant with more flowers. In high school, once I had my driver’s license, I spent a summer delivering flowers. I learned a lot about the care and handling of flowers, as well as how work and product flowed in the flower shop. Waiting for a floral design to be finished, I stood behind the floral designer, watching, guessing where the next stem would be placed. That’s how I learned the basics of floral design.
In college I didn’t ever think I would come back to work at Studley’s. I studied US History, was enamored with photography and had been bitten by the travel bug after studying abroad my junior year in London. My summer job became waiting tables or tending bar. I saved what money I made to travel after graduation. Between trips to Europe, China and Southeast Asia, I returned to Studley’s to work. At that time it was a job that was always available to me. “If you need some money, I’ve got a job for you.” Being older and still as inquisitive, when I worked at Studley’s after college, I started learning a lot. I was involved in office projects, creating advertising, I learned some tricks in the greenhouse and how to propagate a lot of plants, I refined my floral design skills and generally soaked up knowledge.
While travelling, I was always found myself admiring plants. I tended a tomato seedling on my windowsill in Prague, stomped through a cabbage field outside Prague, admired roadside plantings of oleander in Italy, was awestruck by orchids in Kuala Lumpur, admired thousands of neatly placed pots of celosia and begonias in China, recognized sensitive plants growing by a river bank in Laos. Wherever I traveled, I found myself drawing on the knowledge I had gained growing up and learning at Studley’s.
Purchasing the business from my parents with my brother, David, was made easier knowing that my wife, Molly, was as interested in seeing the business continue and grow. Carrying on a family business is never a guaranteed success. Growing up around the business and getting it in my blood from an early age helped ensure I developed the work ethic to continue on and make a success of the business and ensure that Studley’s thrives into the future.
For more information on the history of Studley’s and our 90 Year Celebration, I invite you to visit out Facebook Page and read Our Story.