Philip’s Flowers and Gifts has been in business for decades.


Warren G. Harding As long as he is the surviving president until 2023, the odds are tied to any small business. And if a business overcomes these odds, it may not be run by the original family.

But Philip Flowers and Gifts has managed both and most recently served on the La Grange Park Board of Trustees for 70 years of service to the village and surrounding communities.

“You’ve been a staple in our community for many years,” La Grange Park Village President James DeCipio told Phillips Executive Vice President Baxter W. Phillips at the June 27 board meeting.

“I know you’re proud of your family and we’re proud of you,” DiCipio read a proclamation honoring the company.

The La Grange Park store at 515 N. La Grange Road is the second location for the business and will eventually include six stores, two warehouses and a thriving online operation.

“When we opened this store, I was the twinkle in my dad’s eye,” says Philip.

James A. Philip Sr., the son of Austrian immigrants, said he entered the workforce on the 12th when his father died. After moving through several jobs – and after serving in World War I – he found a knack for the flower business.

Philip, known as “Senior” to his family and staff, died in 2011. On the way to 4904 W. Cermak Road, according to the family.

Philip meets Helen, a bookkeeper at nearby Western Electric. They married and raised three children in a flower shop: James Philip Jr. – Baxter’s father – Russ and Lorelei. Baxter’s father was known as JR.

Lorelei, better known to Chicagoans as Lee Phillips, went to Northwestern University and became a leading female journalist and talk show host on CBS television for decades.

A few years later, the business expanded. The La Grange Park store opened in 1952, and Phillips Flowers & Gifts eventually grew to eight stores in the Chicago area, including stores in Oak Brook, Naperville and Hinsdale.

Reached later by phone, Baxter Phillips spoke to Pioneer Press about being a part of such a well-known brand and recalled his family’s journey through a competitive industry.

“In the 1920s, it was a family business,” he said. Later, when he was a small child, his grandmother still helped with accounting.

All three children grew up working at Cicero’s store before going to college, all in the Northwest.

Baxter’s father, JR, was the driving force behind opening the La Grange Park store, his son said. He said his grandfather was happy that Cicero’s store was thriving and hiring family members, but JR had his eye on expansion. That bothered Senior, who grew up and started his career during the economic ruin of the Depression.

“My dad went to his dad and said, ‘You know, there’s this new concept called the mall,’ and he said, ‘They’re building it in La Grange Park, too.’ I think the chance may be to the west.’

His father’s initial reaction was that it seemed risky and would take a lot of capital.

Luckily, JR’s arguments win out and Senior tells him to try. When that store succeeded after a rough first year, JR, Russ and Lee helped open stores in Hinsdale and Oak Brook. The Oak Brook store was one of the first in the Oak Brook Shopping Center.

Growing up, Philip Flowers began serving weddings, celebrations and funerals and became Philip Flowers and Gifts.

Baxter Philip talks about the changes the business experienced in the last half of the 20th century.

“The obvious big change was in technology,” he said.

In the year Improvements in computer technology in the 1970s helped florists grow alongside organizations such as FTD; This allowed florists to serve customers faster and farther. Philip also revealed that the company has been using the Internet since the 90s.

“About half of our business is over the phone, and 15% to 20% is online,” he said.

But Philip said technological improvements in other areas had a greater impact on the flower business.

“Trucks were changing, communication was changing, refrigeration was changing,” he said. “There was no refrigeration in the 1920s. No one had an air-conditioned and refrigerated trailer.

Philip estimates that when his grandfather started his business, he sourced 80% to 90% of his flowers within 100 miles of the Chicago area. As the century progressed, Philip Flowers gradually shifted to sourcing about half of its production from California.

Now, Philip’s flowers and gifts get about 80% of their supplies from Colombia and Ecuador, some from Holland and some from Asia and Africa.

“They grow flowers near the equator where the sun shines longer every day, but at higher altitudes where the temperature is milder,” he says, because a warmer climate produces flowers for the world’s florists. Philip also emphasized that those equatorial regions had rich soil and a low-cost labor market.

Philippe Modernization and the global marketplace have definitely had an impact on the flower business.

“Everybody in South America does business in English,” he said. “We’re buying directly by phone and email. That was unheard of 50 years ago,” he said.

The international growers, with their longer growing season, made flowers for the American consumer for a long time of the year, which allows a wide selection.

“The selection of flowers at the best prices throughout the year is very wide,” he said.

According to Philip, the family has always strived to live up to the ideals of its founders.

“We’re a small family business and we try to put our customers first because that’s what our grandparents taught us,” he said. We are blessed to have four generations of family.

Hank Beckman is a libertarian.


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