For Campus Florist owner, the bloom is finally off the rose

For Campus Florist owner, the bloom is finally off the rose

CHAMPAIGN — In the years since it opened, Campus Florist has survived two fires, student protesters smashing its windows and a burglary in 1997 that left owner Anne P. Johnston in a coma for a week.

A mainstay at 609 E. Green St., C, it has outlasted countless Campustown stores that have either moved or closed.

But after 77 years, Johnston said, "I think it's time."

She's planning to close the shop at the end of October.

"I always told them I wasn't going to retire, and I had no intentions of retiring until this mess came up about the high-rise, and it just seemed the time to call it quits," she said. "I wanted to make it to the 80th birthday (of the store), but that wasn't the case."

A 17-story high-rise is slated to be built on the southeast corner of Sixth and Green streets. While it won't directly impact her building, Johnston said she didn't want to deal with the construction.

"It's going to be bad for anyone out here while they're tearing it down," she said. "Because when they tear it down, they're going to go through the alleyway, and we'll have no place to park. ... I'm too old for that."

The high-rise is also leading to the closing next month of Campustown bars Firehaus and The Clybourne, and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's The Loft above HomeTown Pantry has already moved across the street.

Tom Harrington Jr., director of acquisitions for CORE, the high-rise's developer, declined to comment.

Johnston, who jokes that she's 125 years old when asked, opened the business in 1941 after she moved from Chicago to Champaign to study floriculture at the University of Illinois.

Campus Florist started on South Wright Street, but moved to its Green Street location a few months later that year for more visibility and a larger shop.

While the business has had its ups and downs, Johnston said, she's the longest-running sole business owner in town.

And she's never considered leaving.

"No way," she said. "I was in a sorority, and I had a store, and I live here, so there was no sense in going back to that place."

The key to her success: "People like us," she said. "You don't have friends if you didn't do something right."

Those friends have been calling since signs were put up Tuesday announcing Campus Florist is closing soon.

"The sign went up, and the phone keeps ringing," she said.

Johnston said she has friends all over the world that attended the UI.

"In fact, just two weeks ago, I had a friend from Thailand here who came up for my birthday," she said.

Johnston said the store will have closing sales, and vases are already on sale.

She also owns the building, but said she doesn't know what will replace Campus Florist.

Until it closes, Johnston will continue to work every day the store is open.

"I come down every day. I can't work the way I used to, but I'm here," she said. Soon, "there won't be any place to go, but I'll find a place."