Flowers, and working together as a family to grow and sell them, is a tradition that dates back to 1927 for Nathan and Jacob Johnson, owners of Watson Flower Shops in Mesa.
The brothers and their families still live on the property where their great-grandparents, Charles and Irene Watson, settled in 1922. On the 18-acre farm on West Main Street, Charles and Irene tried their hands at chicken farming at first. By 1927, however, they were in the flower business—thanks to Irene’s “green thumb,” the internship training she had received at Brown’s Flower Shop in Utah, and the fact that their property was near the old Southside Hospital. People had learned that, on their way to the hospital, they could swing by with a tin can and Irene would fill it with flowers for 25 cents.
Shortly after hanging up their sign and making their business official, Irene purchased 5,000 rose bushes and started selling them door to door in Mesa. The endeavor not only earned her a profit of a dime each, she quickly became known as “The Rose Lady.”
In 1946, the flower shop ownership was passed to one of Charles and Irene’s daughters, Eva, and her husband, James Ernest Johnson, Sr. Eva and Ernie established three branch locations in the East Valley and franchises in Tucson and Flagstaff.
When Ernie passed away in 1950, Eva closed the other locations, but continued to run the west Mesa operation until 1976, when her son, David Johnson and his wife, Pam, took over management. They continued running the business and growing flowers on the family farm until 2009, when they retired.
“Now, my wife [Valerie] and I live and work right here on the original property, and Jacob [with his wife, Wendy] lives in the other house,” Nathan says. “Our kids are the fifth generation to grow up here. What we do for work, where we live—this is our family history.”
Nathan graduated from Arizona State University with a finance degree. Jacob, too, is an ASU graduate, with a degree in management. Both became certified Arizona State Master Florists in 2006 and Jacob was recently elected to the Arizona Floral Association Board of Directors. Both have held leadership roles in the Tempe Apache Boulevard Association.
Nathan says he and Jacob “are eager to uphold the family tradition of growing and selling the longest lasting, highest quality flowers at a reasonable price.”
They also are committed to continuing the family tradition of Church service and adherence to gospel principles. Nathan, who currently serves as the bishop of the Alma Ward, Mesa Alma Stake, says, “Our father was bishop of this ward 17 years ago, and our parents are serving in the Nauvoo Illinois Mission right now.”
Their parents stopped opening the shop on Mother’s Day more than 15 years ago, even though it was traditionally one of their busiest days.
Still, this year, when Valentine’s Day fell on Sunday, Nathan worried about closing.
“Valentine’s Day is always our busiest day. You can’t just turn off that revenue stream,” he says.
The family decided to honor the Sabbath. As a result, Valentine’s Days sales were not only about the same as any other year, but this year, the Saturday-only sales surpassed what they did on Saturday and Sunday combined the year they opened on Sunday for Valentine’s Day.
Watson Flowers delivers Valleywide. The original shop, at 2525 W. Main St. in Mesa, can be reached by calling 480-967-8797. A second location is at 929 N Val Vista Drive, Ste 107, in Gilbert. For more information and history, visit www.watsonflowers.com.