**8/17/17 Updated to correct ownership.
By Maureen Werther
Dehn’s Flowers is celebrating its 125th year in business throughout the summer, with sales and special events for long-time customers as well as new ones. While some things at Dehn’s have changed, other things have remained the same, the most important of which is the family’s work ethic and their commitment to the business.
Christian Dehn made the trip from Germany to the United States in 1890 specifically to visit the World’s Fair. While he was there, he met people who told him about the upstate New York city of Saratoga Springs and its growing popularity as a place to relax and enjoy the restorative properties of its healing springs.
Dehn decided to see for himself what all the fuss was about and, soon after arriving here, he opened a flower business on Clark Street. However, he had left his wife, Sophie and their young son, Charles in Germany. Within a year, he closed the Clark Street shop, made the trip back to Europe and brought his family back to Saratoga Springs. In February of 1892, he purchased an existing flower shop on Beekman Street. Five generations and 125 years later, the family business continues to thrive.
Like most family-owned businesses, the owners of Dehn’s understand and embrace a philosophy of hard work and dedication to the business. Terry Dehn Mishoe’s father, affectionately known to many people as “Dude,” is in his late 70’s and still works seven days a week, running the business with Terry’s husband, John Mishoe.Terry’s grandparents, Charles and Gibby, also worked in the business their entire lives, with Charles working until the day he died at the age of 83.
They all agree that the flower business isn’t always a bed of roses. One of the jobs that has been passed down from one generation to the next is the responsibility of being on call in case the boilers break down and jeopardize the nearly one million flowers and plants that are housed in their 22 greenhouses, spanning 2 ½ blocks.
Terry divides her time between managing the accounting side of things and helping out at Dehn’s satellite store on Trieble Avenue in Ballston Spa. Her husband, John, has taken over the growing operations, as well as the maintenance of the property and buildings. Terry and John met while he was stationed here as a member of the United States Navy. She likes to joke that, after they married, John went from working with “nuke” power to flower power.
With somewhere between 60 and 100 varieties, totaling one million plants, the challenges of running a flower business are many and diverse. Weather, insects, disease and nutritional issues are just some of the issues John manages daily.
And of course, maintenance and repair are the gifts that keep on giving. Whether it’s a heavy snowfall that collapses the roof of a greenhouse, repairing or replacing old and outdated infrastructure, or regularly replacing the polyethylene sheeting that encompasses the greenhouses, there isn’t much time to stop and smell the roses.
Despite the many challenges and responsibilities, Dehn’s continues today as strong as ever, and its reputation as a top-notch supplier of flowers and plants to commercial, municipal and residential customers keeps the owners and staff at Dehn’s Flowers as busy as ever.
Terry and John attribute the businesses’ ongoing success to the continued patronage of their customers. She recalled the massive fire that broke out between Christmas and New Year of 1981, destroying a large portion of the property.
“The boilers all stopped working and we had no heat to protect the plants,” said Terry. “All our customers and neighbors called to help, bringing kerosene heaters and anything else to try to salvage at least some of the plants.”
Terry’s parents live just down the street from the shop and Dude recalled running outside to see the smoke billowing as flames fully engulfed the building. By the time the fire was extinguished, the Dehn family had lost the rear portions of five greenhouses.
“They rebuilt them in six weeks,” said Terry, adding that they had no choice. After all, spring – their busiest time of year – was right around the corner and they needed to be ready for it.
Dehn’s recently held an official 125th anniversary celebration on June 9, with 12.5 percent discounts in homage to their 125 years of business.
“We had a wonderful turnout,” said Terry, adding that one guest – 88-year-old Emily Brower – worked at the shop for Terry’s grandmother 75 years ago.
Terry has many fond memories of growing up in the family business. The basement, which Terry recalled looking like a dungeon, was used for the floral designers, and Terry loved being down in the cool subterranean space.
“There was a hole in the floor above, and the workers upstairs would drop customers’ orders through the hole into a basket directly beneath it. The hole is still there today.”
Dehn’s new design room is now located off the delivery area, attached to the garden center.
Another long-time shop staple is the fish pond, which Terry said is a particular favorite of children visiting the shop with their parents.
Dehn’s will continue its celebration throughout the rest of the summer, and people who come to the shop can see newspaper clippings and other memorabilia that the family has collected throughout the years.