Cook Florist celebrates 80 years as a family-owned business

1 year ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For 80 years, a Presque Isle family has helped residents celebrate holidays, everyday occasions and special milestones with colorful blooms.

Megan Allen is the fourth-generation owner of Cook Florist, located across the street from the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Allen had co-owned the shop with her mother, Karen Duncan, for the past five years, but took the reins this year. She has a business degree from Northern Maine Community College and will draw on what she’s learned to keep Cook Florist thriving.

To celebrate the florist’s milestone, Allen is updating the shop’s front showroom. The family home and business have occupied the same spot at 174 Main Street for 80 years.

“I think we have a really great community that supports the small businesses,” Allen said. “People enjoy coming in. We try to address our customers by name; it’s that small-town feel.”

Megan Allen arranges flowers at Cook Florist in Presque Isle. She is the fourth-generation owner of the 80-year old family business. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

Allen’s great-grandparents, Sidney and Edna Cook, started the business in 1943 from Edna’s kitchen. At the time they were the only florists in Maine who grew their own flowers and photographed their arrangements to show as slides to customers. 

The Cooks were Presque Isle natives. Edna graduated from the Gorney School of Floral Art in Boston and was a member and president of the local Pierany Club. Sidney was a sportscaster for 19 years at the Aroostook Broadcasting System, Allen said.

The couple made a hobby of growing flowers, and people came to them for bouquets or growing tips, Allen said. They noticed an increased demand in seedlings for home gardeners. Sidney built three hothouses and the couple expanded their operation with an additional workshop for Edna, along with a customer waiting room.

The Cooks passed on their business to their daughter, Margaret, and her husband Donald Duncan. Their daughter, Karen Duncan, purchased Cook Florist in 1994 and operated it with Allen for the past five years. During the pandemic, the store introduced curbside pickup so costumes could drop by while following COVID-19 guidelines.

The family has expanded the store as the business thrived.

“Each generation has built on top of what was there before,” Allen said. “I’ve always lived here Our house was attached to the business and that’s how it’s been for the past four generations,” Allen said.

Fourth-generation Cook Florist owner Megan Allen (left) poses with her mother Karen Duncan, the shop’s third-generation owner, beside their Valentine’s Day display on Feb. 3. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

Cook Florist has been adapting to social media trends through their Facebook and Instagram pages, along with a Tik Tok account created in 2022. For example, European style is trending on social media with a more airy greenery as a statement piece, Allen said. Her personal preference for creating a bouquet is three greenery pieces.

Driver Bob St. Pierre delivers for the business, and has been working at Cook Florist for the past seven years.  

People like to brighten up their space over the winter months like January and February because they’re tired of seeing the white snow, Allen said. Her suggestions for keeping the arrangements alive are trimming the stems of the flowers, giving them cool water, and keeping them away from a heat source to make them last longer.

The business creates arrangements for weddings and retirement parties. Valentine’s Day, which is around the corner, is their busiest day, Allen said. Overall, the busiest time of the year is the month of May because of Mother’s Day, proms, weddings, pageants, graduations and memorials.

“It’s a really fun business to have and because we have such a great community is the reason why we’ve been able to do this for 80 years,” Allen said.