Ray Hunter Florist & Garden closes after 100 years

PAULA NEUMAN
– Southgate Star
 –

For 100 years, Ray Hunter Florist & Garden served Downriver’s needs for special occasions, gravesite decoration, sympathy arrangements, houseplants, gifts, holidays and much more.

The store on Eureka Road in Southgate closed its doors July 14 for the last time.

“It’s a tough thing that we had to do,” Ray Hunter Jr. said.

Hunter is the son of Ray Hunter Jr., who with Charles Rice, founded the business in 1919.

“It’s been very difficult, and we just reached a point where we decided it would be best for our staff and ourselves to close,” Hunter said. “It’s just a different time now. People buy in different ways. We’re very thankful to the community, and grateful for all the support we’ve had from Downriver people and businesses over the years, and our staff has been great, as well. We have so many memories. It’s been wonderful.”

Janelle Rose, co-owner of Willow Tree in Wyandotte, said: “I am so sad to learn of the closing of Ray Hunter. I have so many memories of holiday time at the Eureka store with my kids. It was magical during Christmas time. The (Southern Wayne County Regional) Chamber of Commerce ‘After Business Ours’ events held there in November were always the best attended and most festive each year. The place looked so festive and colorful and wonderful, and people dressed in their holiday sweaters and ties.”

Said Hunter: “We held a lot of community events and supported our community in different ways, through personal involvement and donations to charities.”

Customer Ronnie Combs Rose of Wyandotte is among the many Downriver residents with fond memories of Ray Hunter Florist.

“I purchased our first sets of Christmas lights and tree from there in 1997, when we first got married,” she said. “I’ve been a loyal customer since. It’s so sad to see small businesses close due to the increased Internet competition.”

Kathy Trent, communications consultant for the city of Dearborn, also had special holiday memories of the Southgate store.

“My mother always went to Ray Hunter at the holidays to pick out one ornament for our Christmas tree,” Trent said. “After she passed, my daughter and I continued the tradition. We will miss this store.”

The Southgate store’s holiday decorations and twinkling, bright lights made people driving by turn their heads and smile each year.

Customer Judith Bonner of Taylor said she’ll definitely miss the business.

“I used to take my kids and grandkids there at Christmas,” she said. “It was always so pretty.”

Over the years, the business hired many high school students to work part-time. Jeff Tyler of Taylor was one of them.

“That was my very first job at 16 years old,” he said. “It was a part-time, after-school job. I worked in the back where they arranged flower bouquets. Basically, when flower shipments came in, I stocked them in the cooler. It was actually a fun job, and the people I worked with were so nice. It’s sad to see it go.”

Jeanine Ayers of Wyandotte talked fondly about when her husband worked at Ray Hunter as a teenager.

“My husband Bill worked there when we were kids in high school in the late ‘70s,” Ayers said. “I will never forget when they had him dress up as the Easter Bunny in the spring, standing on the side of Eureka Road, waving at the passing cars.”

Kay Massengill of Brownstown Township worked at the business as an adult.

“I loved the store,” she said. “I worked there for a few years during the holiday season. It was a great crew of people, and I truly enjoyed the work as a designer in the back room, all behind the scenes. The store will be missed!”

Rose said online shopping options probably contributed to the store’s closing, and reminded people of the value of shopping at local businesses.

“People are going to miss the personal service one day — and will be sad to find out it’s too late,” she said of the flower and garden store.

Ray Hunter Florist & Garden posted this comment on its Facebook page: “Our family and staff have reached retirement age and are looking forward to new adventures in the future. We are grateful to our customers and friends for 100 years of patronage and support. It has been a pleasure for the Hunter family to serve our community since 1919.”

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