You may have noticed some warehouse-type buildings on Elm Street, or some of you may even remember the glass greenhouses or a beautiful rose bush that bloomed on an abandoned lot in that vicinity. These are remnants of the once thriving floral business that belonged to the Hanford family on the edge of Fulton Heights.
It all started back in 1888, when John Wilbur Hanford and his wife, Emma, settled in Carbondale, Illinois. They owned a mercantile and were accomplished musicians in the community. John W. was also an avid gardener and horticulturalist, and his hobby grew into the operation of two prosperous greenhouses.
Their son, John Van Hanford, was born in 1893, and in 1899 the family moved to Grand Junction, Colorado to operate a fruit ranch. They resided there until 1905, when Mrs. Hanford was advised to move to a different climate because of her poor health.
John W. had read an article in a national magazine that was written by Colonel William H. Neave, extolling the virtues of the music programs, cultural levels, and climate of the North Carolina Piedmont in general and Salisbury in particular. The Hanfords promptly moved to Salisbury, and they built three greenhouses and auxiliary buildings on Elm Street to serve the floral needs of the area.
John V. entered the business in 1910 at age 17, expanded production and growing facilities, and opened a retail florist shop, J. Van Hanford, Florist, at 125 West Innes St., acclaimed as one of the finest stores of its kind in the South. John V. married Mary Ella Cathey in 1917 and they had two children, John Van Hanford Jr. (1923) and Elizabeth A. (1936) – we all know the history of Elizabeth A. Hanford Dole!
In 1924, a new group of greenhouses was added to Elm Street, more than doubling the production facilities. Florists in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee were buying flowers from JVH, and in 1930 he started the Salisbury Florists’ Supply Company, with warehouses and offices also on Elm Street – it was a huge operation! Their logo trademark was “Pioneer Brand” and their motto was “First in Dixie.”
After World War II, John V. brought his son, John V. Jr. to the business, and changed the name to J. Van Hanford & Son, Wholesale Florists. They made use of air service, refrigerated trucks, and provided floral delivery as far out as 150 miles!
In 1948, they opened a branch office in Charlotte. For the next three decades, John Van Hanford Jr. led the business in expansion and growth that included floral design, artificial flowers, holiday ornamentation, gift-ware and decorative home accessories, importing live flowers and products from around the globe. In 1978, J. Van Hanford & Son, Wholesale Florist was sold to Gregory Damron of Charlotte.
In 1985, J. Van Hanford & Son Greenhouses was sold to William S. Holmes and Stephen Poteat of Salisbury. And in 1987, Hanford’s Inc. Creators and Importers, was sold to Montrose Capital of Durham, bringing to an end a family business that had operated for over 80 years in the backyard of Fulton Heights. Heights’
(Written by Doug and Leslie Black of 629 Mitchell Ave.)