Villagers Debbie Katz-Liebenthal, left, and Amy Billingsley are going to re-emphasize flowers as the new owners of Schramm's Flowers, at 3025 W. Central Ave.
Schramm's Flowers, one of the region's oldest continually operating businesses, has long been an Ottawa Hills staple. The go-to florist for every occasion - from weddings to proms, Mother's Day to funerals, and everything in between - generations of Villagers have relied on the 145-year-old business for their floral needs.
It is only fitting the new owners are Village residents Debbie Katz-Liebenthal and Amy Billingsley. The pair bought the business in February from sisters Sandy Sack and Sue Roberts, who owned the store since 1994.
Schramm's has been based at 3025 W. Central Ave. since 2011, when Sack and Roberts moved from their former location in Cricket West, across the street.
Katz-Liebenthal and Billingsley have been friends since 2010, when they met while their kids were in the Ottawa Hills High School production of "Little Shop of Horrors."
"We bonded over hiding in the back row," Katz-Liebenthal said with a laugh. They were hiding from the production's director Darrin Broadway, "so he didn't keep asking us to do things," she said. The pair, of course, did volunteer their time, and were "food moms" for the show.
The ladies became fast friends, and meet for breakfast nearly every weekend.
On Dec. 8, 2016, Katz-Liebenthal received a peculiar text from her husband, asking her if she was available to have dinner with her attorney to discuss a business opportunity. The catch? Her husband is her attorney. He was also Sack's and Roberts' attorney, and knew they were thinking of selling or closing Schramm's.
"They were ready to retire," Katz-Liebenthal said, and she and Billingsley were ready for a new adventure.
Billingsley worked at ProMedica for the past eight years, and prior to that she worked at Epworth United Methodist Church. Katz-Liebenthal was a speech therapist and language pathologist for 28 years.
"We had a spark in our eyes about being our own bosses, independent business owners," Katz-Liebenthal said. "Schramm's was a known entity, and we want to be a part of life cycle events ... in the community. We know the demographic, we are the demographic."
Billingsley was in the store often over the years, many times to purchase gifts. As the new owners, the duo is going to put their own twist on the business.
"We want it to be a floral and gift shop, not a gift and floral shop," Billingsley said.
While the store will continue to stock Vera Bradley and Alex and Ani lines, along with other gifts, they are re-emphasizing the shop's floral roots. Within days of taking over the shop they moved a major floral arrangement to the front window, and are considering other changes to the store to put flowers front and center and make better use of the space in the basement.
They are also considering adjusting the stores hours, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., to cater to customers who may want to pop in on their way home from work.
"We will learn the needs of community, what people like to see, what the community wants" and make changes accordingly, Billingsley said.
While some things will be changing, loyal customers can continue to rely on the talents of Mary Beth, the store's floral designer since 2011. Sales clerk Laurie Babb has been promoted to manager.
Schramm's Flowers can still be reached at 419-535-0065 and found on the web at schrammsflowers.com and on Facebook.