Barbers Flowers, spanning five generations and over 100 years service to the residence of Belleville and surrounding area. Barbers Flowers established as S.S Potter, Florist, Fruit, Vegetable Grower about 1874. Samuel Stanley Potter (1849-1930) known just as S.S, was born to John and Catherine (Eaton) Potter, Amelisburgh, Ontario.
He learned very early on his trade. As a young boy, he tended to his garden of flowers and vegetables. By age 25 (1874) he married Jane Ann Kimmerly (1849-1889) at Madoc, Ontario. It was at this time he established the business which included growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Also adding to his craft was one of the first canning facilities in Prince Edward County which were located on 16 acres just south of Huffs Island Road. His canning operation produced a variety of canned vegetables, from peas, and corn, to tomatoes. On this same property where his gardens and cannery stood, were also the first commercial greenhouses in Prince Edward County.
S.S. and Jane Ann had four daughters, which included Eugenie Gertrude (1877-1954), Lottie May (1879-1960), Ethel Irene (1883-1963) and Sarah Catherine (1885-1965). As fate would have it, Lottie married William James Barber (1873-1920) in Amelisburgh (1897). Though Lottie and William had a role in the business, it is unclear how large a role they played, before William's death in 1920 from complications from appendicitis.
As early as 1890 S.S. Potter established his business beside the Market Square at 24 McAnnany Street, with Edgar Brown in charge. By the time S.S. became the age of 70, (1920) his grandson John Stanley Barber had taken over the operation. I can only assume it was after S.S. death in 1930 that John changed the name to Barbers Flowers.
John Stanley Barber (1899-1986) had married Hannah Margaret Black (1902-1987) at Belleville, Ontario 1922. They had two boys who would both carry on the Barber Tradition. Willet James Barber (1924-2012) at a very young age ran and was in charge of the greenhouse operations until his retirement about the year 1989.His younger brother Robert "Bob" was to take charge of the store.
By 1976 the store and property at 24 McAnnany Street acquired by the city and torn down. Barbers displaced to their current location at 122 Front Street. Ann said "It was like the game “Monopoly”. We traded deeds, and the city gave a bit of cash to renovate." Bob can remember one anxious time at his new place when the
Moira River flooded its banks of water and ice downtown in the late 1970's. He can remember staying the entire night at the store during this particular incident.
Bob's youngest daughter Ann, involved in the business before and after school starting in the mid 70's keeps the tradition going. Ann took over the business when Bob retired in 1997.
Ann continued to evolve Barbers into the millennium, by adding a website with e-commerce. In the beginning, she said it didn't make sense spending money on a website, but it quickly evolved and proved fruitful for them.
There was one particular time over all those years in business when the flowers on hand and at the suppliers came to a critical low. So low that they had to improvise to complete orders. The time in question was when Princess Diana died in that fatal crash 1997.
When you go to purchase that dozen roses for your loved one on that special occasion, and you see that hefty price tag. Take into consideration that the highest quality roses come from South America, put into hibernation, dry shipped to Florida, then distributed throughout North America. In this case, shipped to Toronto than onto Belleville. Ann and her employees then perform several steps to reverse this hibernation. All flowers have evolved with improved quality and longevity, at the cost of less fragrance. I directed one last question to Ann. Will there be a sixth generation running Barbers Flower. She indicated that her son and daughter at ages 20 and 17 have little or no interest in the Florist Business. At this point, it seems unlikely.
Mairead and Dermot McCourt
Ann shared one story that was touching, and I thought it best shared. One hopeless romantic Irish/Canadian by the name of Dermot McCourt after the passing of his wife, Mairead in 2013 made the journey to Barbers at 11 am every Friday to purchase a single red rose to place beside a picture of his dear wife at home. Without a doubt, he did this every Friday for nearly four years until his death June of this year.
Dermot McCourt Born November 12, 1925 in Dublin, Ireland married Mairead Blake July 25, 1951. In 1960, the family immigrated to Canada, settling first in Toronto, than Belleville.
Mairead passed away September 11, 2013. Dermot was dyed-in-the-wool with his love for Mairead and kept her memory alive the best he knew how, until his death June 12, 2017.
They are survived by their six children, Anne, Catherine, Mary, Conor, Susan and Neil.
Pictures include 1. Samuel Stanley "S.S." Potter and his four daughters 2. Store at 24 McAnnany Street Circa 1920 (beside Whites Meat Market) 3. Store Front circa 1976 4. Barbers Flowers at 122 Front Street 5. The Barber homestead with the greenhouse operation. The right of picture is canning factory (with smokestack) circa 1970's 6. Armouries Business Fair circa 1920's 7. Business Receipt circa 1890 8. Mairead and Dermot McCourt
Article content per interview with Bob Barber and his daughter Ann