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Canajoharie, NY ,

File photo - Frederick “Fritz” Traudt, president of Joseph Traudt Florist Inc., and his sister, Susan Beaver, work in the company’s wholesale greenhouse operation in this 2001 file photo. After a 112-year run, the three-generation family business has ceased operations.

Linda Kellett - Waiting to go on the block during the Sept. 22 greenhouse auction of Joseph Traudt Florist Inc. are furniture and equipment from the 112-year-old Floral Avenue business.

Linda Kellett - As Fritz Traudt looks on, center, auctioneer William Armitstead sells items to the highest bidder.

File photo - Fritz Traudt works in the company’s wholesale greenhouse operation in this 2001 file photo. After a 112-year run, the three-generation family business has ceased operations.

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Floral business throws in the trowel

Thursday, October 11, 2012 - Updated: 8:35 AM

By LINDA KELLETT

C-S-E News Staff

CANAJOHARIE — Almost unintelligible, the sing-song chant of an auctioneer could be heard from the Moyer Street end of Floral Avenue late last month as furniture, tools, equipment, and fittings from the 112-year-old Traudt family floral business were auctioned off.

On the block during the Sept. 22 sale were space heaters, exhaust fans, refrigeration units, humidifiers, garden tools, tarps, thermometers, fertilizer injectors, thermostats, plant stands, pots and plug trays and more. Even the glass and poly- greenhouses were to be sold to the highest bidders, who were expected to dismantle and remove the structures at a later date.

Stone Arabia resident Willis “Skip” Barshied, reflecting on the end of the Traudt’s three-generation operation just days before the sale, recalled going to the Floral Avenue greenhouses as a child. There, his family would get flowers for gardens and cemetery plots, he said.

“I think they’ve been involved in Canajoharie for all these years,” he said. “They’ve been important in this village... It’s sad if they’re going out of business.”

For Frederick “Fritz” Traudt, the president of the company that was started by his grandfather, Joseph, in 1900, and for his sister, Susan Beaver, who has done the business’ bookkeeping and spring transplanting for many years, it’s more of a relief than a loss, he said.

“We made up our mind a year ago that it was time to do it. There were numerous reasons why, including advanced age,” Traudt said with a chuckle.

He noted, for instance, that many of people with whom the company has had dealings over the years are no longer in business.

“It was a case of the business situation has changed... I think every small business, in some respects, is struggling,” Traudt said. “It just came time to chuck it in and go on with our lives and do something else.”

Another reason for ceasing operations was the work load. While most of the year wasn’t bad, he said the rigors of the job from the spring, when everything had to be transplanted, through the selling season, when all of the plants had to be moved and delivered, “just got to be pretty overwhelming. It just wasn’t reasonable to expect ourselves to do it any more,” he said.

While people could be hired to help with the manual labor, he noted that represented an added expense.

Traudt said his grandfather started the business after moving to Canajoharie in 1900. “He leased it first, then he bought it from a man named Fox. He was apprentice to the business over in Germany,” he said.

Among the plants his grandfather cultivated were orchids, roses and carnations.

Traudt’s parents, Frederick “Fred” and Gladys Traudt, continued the family tradition after his grandfather’s 1949 death. His mother did the bookkeeping and ordered flowers, and his father did the design work, he said.

For a time, Traudt and his brother were both involved with the operation, but his brother ultimately chose a different vocational path, Traudt said.

As government regulations and red tape increased over the years, Traudt said a decision was reached to discontinue the family’s retail operation, which was largely maintained by his parents.

The final year of retail sales was 1986. Since that time, the florist has engaged in a wholesale operation raising poinsettias, vinca, a complete line of bedding — and geraniums, one of the plants they did best, he said.

While he didn’t recall any disasters over the years, Traudt said he derived a “great deal of pride” when the greenhouses were full of flowers. Such was the case in December 2001, when a story about the greenhouses appeared in the C-S-E.

In that story, it was noted that the business at its peak had 20,000 square feet of greenhouse space. Traudt said the peak years were in the decade of the 1930s, when the family’s greenhouses stretched up the hillside.

During those early years, his grandfather bought a small piece of property between Phillip Street and Moyer Avenue and piped water to a cistern for plant watering. The business also had a hand-stoked coal furnace to keep the boilers going.

The village’s third largest water user after Beech-Nut and Richardson’s, Traudt’s by 2001 had been cut back to 12,000 to 13,000 square feet as a result of modifications to greenhouse structures.

When asked about plans for his retirement, Traudt said he’s hoping to do some fishing with this grandson. He’s also involved with the Second Time Around Big Band, and he plans to continue his long-time involvement with the village fire department and ambulance service.

By springtime, Traudt expects that his hands “will be in the dirt again,” as some of his former customers have expressed interest in having him help them a few days a week.

“I’m a half-full guy, not a half-empty guy. I figure something will work out,” Traudt said. “I want to find something to do part time. Something to keep me occupied.”

Linda Kellett - Fritz Traudtholds a circa-1930s photograph of the wholesale and retail greenhouse operation started by his grandfather, Joseph Traudt, in 1900. The photo shows the operation at its most expansive point.

     

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