Elkader Floral Shop, Store is perfect reflection of its owner

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Janis Lerch’s shop, Elkader Floral, offers a mix of flowers, home decor and unique gifts.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

If there was ever a shop that perfectly mirrored its owner’s personality, Elkader Floral is that shop. The store’s inventory is a creative blend of fresh and silk floral arrangements, plants, home decor, and unique gift items, including many with spiritual themes. Each business day, there’s a cheery, humorous or thought-provoking message chalked onto a board in the shop’s front window.

Just like her shop, long-time owner Janis Lerch is artistic, funny, religious and seemingly unflappable—even when the compressor on her cooler goes out.

“It is what it is,” she says with characteristic forbearance. “You can always find something good in a bad situation if you just look hard enough.”

Elkader Floral had a presence in town long before Janis opened shop in 1996 in the former Ben Franklin building on Main Street. Norma Mitchell started the business in 1960 and later sold it to Steve and Pam Stahr. The Stahrs, who still own and operate Elkader Greenhouse, employed Janis in their floral shop for a dozen years. That wasn’t her first experience in the flower business, however. After graduating from Starmont High School in 1978, Janis’ went to work for Kandy and Roger Sandhagen, owners of Country Bouquet Flower Shop in Strawberry Point.

“With much patience, Kandy taught me the basics.” Janis said.

Janis is a life-long Northeast Iowan. The daughter of Cyril and Ardelle Fettkether, she was born in Manchester and lived in Masonville until 1965, when the family moved to their home farm on Highway 3 between Strawberry Point and Oelwein. Her two older siblings stayed in the state, as well. Her sister, Jean Grimm, lives in Marion and her brother, Duane Fettkether, resides in Arlington. And though most of her business is transacted in Clayton County, Janis has gone as far as Clinton,; Osage Beach, MO; Sioux Falls, S.D; and St. Paul, MN.

“For weddings, I have a motto: Have van, will travel,” she says.

Never one to take her business for granted, Janis says she’s “blessed to have been given this talent and to be able to share my passion each day.” She’s also grateful to have a shop located in a town that supports its retail business owners. Still, her work is not without its challenges, which includes deadlines, access to fresh quality products, winter deliveries and keeping up with every-changing trends.

Though each occasion is memorable and gets Janis’ full attention, some requests stand out more than others.

“I remember many of my works not only by the flowers but by the person ordering, receiving or being honored with them,” she says. “I love to personalize each piece that is made. One that I’m extra proud of is a wreath I was asked to create for the grave of an unknown soldier. I was very honored. I’m also honored by the brides that come to me to do their flowers for their special day, and by the flowers I’m asked to do for funerals in celebration of a special person’s life. It’s the last thing I get to do for them and I want it to be the best!”

Janis has three part-time employees, Mary Kahrs of St. Olaf; Jane Well, Arlington; and Shirley Kuehl, Elkader. She gets seasonal assistance from LaRayne Lenhart, Elkader; Jean Grimm, Marion; Matt O’Mera, Elkader; and her daughters Emily Cordes, Elkader, and Elizabeth Cordes, Cedar Falls. And standing quietly in the background, doing whatever she needs to have done, is her “wonderful and supportive husband, Larry Lerch.”

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