A Family Business Memory - Part 1

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The Tree House

RINewsToday.com wants you to get to know our Rhode Island business owners. Many have fought the hard fight to climb to success and to stay in business. In this series, we will be featuring the history of “The Tree House” which is one of Rhode Island’s greatest treasures located on Centerville Road in Warwick. Co-Owner Michael Gerard takes us in a stroll down memory lane. So look for our features - and enjoy! Congratulations to the entire “Ferns and Flowers”-  now the “The Tree House” family as they celebrate forty years in business!

Join them for a celebration April 11th from 5-9PM!

I wanted to open a flower shop, and with my parents encouragement we did! Forty years ago, Mom found this prayer in an antique shop.  The next week we found a neglected bungalow in a Warwick. The first thing in the door was this Prayer. Four weeks later we opened.

We were blessed with this prayer and it has graced our place, including the present location. It has witnessed so many wonderful and so many heart-breaking moments.

We had the business blessed, and so it resonated that the Prayer of St. Francis, asked us to improve people’s lives, believe in kindness, goodness, with an appreciation of nature, hope and love.

The priest said his blessing, “Ferns and Flowers” [now “The Tree House”], is a place for people to gather, in a warm, welcoming environment to find nourishment of creative food for all who enter. Food for the body, but the comfort and nourishment of food for the minds, spirits and souls.”

We were blessed in finding this prayer and blessed in the path to touch and be touched by so many people, their stories and lives throughout our forty years in business. Our path was not easy, or without bumps, but love and support of our friends, people like YOU, have made our journey so blessed.  

Looking back then I was just 18 years old, without fear, opening a small florist with Mom by my side and my Dad as support. Amazing what you will do for a dream.

We didn’t have a single customer. I would work nights at Jerry’s Market, mornings at CCRI and the shop the rest of the day. Did I say without pay? I built the green window shutters using old oak packing pallets. I scraped and painted the building after delivering flowers for the day.  I remember falling asleep as soon as I would sit down! 

The state called to audit the payroll taxes they said they were not receiving. They found out it was because we were not taking salaries! Dad supported us the first year. The next year, I got paid, $50-$75 a week. It was difficult to afford going out on a date more than once a week (like I had the energy). To conserve, we would keep the lights off till a costumer pulled in the driveway.

We had a sale of two stems of daisy mums, and extra greens costing $1.50 plus tax. 15 minutes later the customer returned, because she said they made her sneeze and she wanted her money back! A negative day to be in business and I wondered, “How are we going to survive, pay the bills and stay in business?”

I went out and decorated window displays throughout East Greenwich, homes, offices, and even watered plants. Mom did little girl flower class birthday teas, and decorated beauty shops.

The electric bills were less than $175 a month, versus today’s monthly bill around $2,800, even with LED bulbs.

I am so glad I had the drive, vision, energy, support, stubbornness and passion.


-Michael Gerard

Part 2 will continue tomorrow...

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