Leaving the family, uprooting none

Leaving the family, uprooting none

CHAMPAIGN - For 80 years, there has always been an Abbott family member running Abbott's Florist in Champaign.
But that changed this past week when third-generation owner Doug Abbott sold the business to Lisa and Tim Duitsman, who are the owners of Calico Heart Florist in St. Joseph and, until recently, another Calico Heart shop in Savoy.
The Duitsmans have closed the shop in Savoy and merged it with Abbott's Florist at 1741 W. Kirby Ave. in the Old Farm Shops.
Lisa Duitsman, who runs the business, said she plans to remodel the Abbott's showroom but will continue operating that shop under its long-established name.
Doug Abbott, 52, said he wants to pursue other business interests after 29 years in the floral shop started by his late grandparents.
Abbott says his grandfather, S.C. Abbott, was a meat cutter by trade, ?but he always had a love for growing things.?
S.C. Abbott started in the floral business in 1923 with a greenhouse behind his home on Park Street in Champaign. He and his wife, Annie, moved into their first florist shop at 1501 N. Prospect Ave., C, about 1930, Doug Abbott said.
Doug Abbott's parents, Robert and Dorothy, joined the business in 1945 and remained active in it until their deaths in the 1990s.
Abbott's operated at a number of locations over the years, including, in addition to the North Prospect shop, others at 2005 S. Philo Road, U; 1201 S. Mattis Ave., C, and at Market Place Mall in Champaign.
Doug Abbott became the third generation to join the family business in 1974 after getting a psychology degree from the University of Illinois. He hadn't planned a career in floristry, he said, but he joined the business anyway at his father's request.
Abbott says he always enjoyed the people side of the shop, but his heart has never been in floral work. So he pursued other interests on the side, one of which he plans to give much more attention now that he has sold the shop.
Among his pursuits over the years have been commercial photography and multimedia, playing and teaching guitar, and teaching sailing and canoeing.
?I've always had something else going on,? Abbott said.
Another pursuit has been an Internet marketing company called D.S. Abbott Business Services, a company he started to help small businesses make their Web sites more visible and maximize their Internet presence.
Abbott says he plans to focus a lot of energy on expanding that company, along with giving more time to his church, Faith United Methodist in Champaign, where he is a contemporary worship leader and will be serving as a part-time music director.
Abbott's wife, Susan, said she's happy her husband is getting an opportunity to pursue another career.
?He's always had so many interests, and he is so good with people, and he's so involved in our church,? she said.
Susan Abbott said her husband has also been an active member of the community, working with the American Red Cross, the Champaign County Forest Preserve District and Kiwanis.
?I think it's always sad to see a family business sort of leave the family, but the Duitsmans are such great people, and I'm really excited for the chance to have Doug do something new,? she added.
Susan Abbott said she met her husband when she worked at Abbott's Florist part-time in high school and college, but she pursued a career of her own after college. She is an executive vice president for Busey Bank, overseeing retail banking and marketing.
Doug Abbott said he began thinking seriously about getting out of the florist business after his father died five years ago.
Another consideration, he said, was that none of his children - which include Emily, 16, and Robert, 14, who advertised the business on the radio for a number of years - has expressed an interest in a florist shop career.
When Doug Abbott heard last fall that Lisa Duitsman was interested in expanding, he got more serious about selling the shop, he said.
?She has an excellent reputation,? he said. ?I felt it would be a very good fit, and they'd do a very good job for our customers.?
In fact, Abbott said, with the same designers and other employees remaining on board, ?I really don't think any of our customers will see any difference at all.?
Duitsman, 41, has been in the florist business for 10 years, starting as an employee at Calico Heart Florist in St. Joseph and buying the business nine years ago.
She has moved it twice to larger locations, the second time to a new building at 208 N. First St. in St. Joseph.
She opened her shop in Savoy a year and a half ago. While it did well enough, Duitsman said, it wasn't nearly as good a location for walk-in traffic as Abbott's has at Old Farm Shops.
Duitsman said her corporate accounts from the Savoy shop have followed her to Abbott's, and she's hoping her other customers will do likewise.
In addition to remodeling the showroom, Duitsman said she plans to bring in more gift items and expand custom silk floral arrangements.

You can reach Debra Pressey at (217) 351-5229 or via e-mail at dpressey@news-gazette.com.

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