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Aladdin celebrates 40 years in business

by Linda Hiller, staff writer

Forty years ago, a flower arrangement sold for around $7.50, the word “Internet” wasn’t in the dictionary and the Aladdin Flower and Gift Shop was on its way to becoming the main place for Carson Valley residents to buy china, jewelry, gifts and flowers.

In 1960, Ethel Fleischer bought a small Gardnerville flower and gift shop from Mata Christensen. The 1,500-square-foot store stood where the Historian Inn is now.

“The original store was actually a trading post,” she said. “In 1895, it was a general store.”

Flower arrangements that 40 years ago started at $7.50, now start at $30. Then, the most popular flowers were carnations, gladiolas and chrysanthemums. Today, people buy stargazer and alstromeria lilies and roses and they want their arrangements less packed than in 1960 – more airy with lots of greens and willows, Ethel said.

“It was hard coming up with the name – I think it took me about a week – but then I thought of Aladdin and it just seemed like an ideal name,” Fleischer said. “To me it represented magic.”

Before she bought the shop, Fleischer worked in town as a bookkeeper, and had considered getting her accounting degree to become a CPA, but one man suggested to her that women just didn’t make good accountants.

“Can you believe that?” she said. “I actually let him convince me not to be an accountant.”

But in buying the Aladdin Flower and Gift Shop and keeping it running for four decades, Fleischer is truly having the last laugh.

“It was very interesting learning the flower business,” she said. “We took the family to Denver for two weeks so I could attend the Benz School of Flower Design. I soon learned that flowers are the international language of love.”

– Family business. From that first small shop, the Aladdin Flower and Gift Shop grew to be a retail staple in the Valley, and the Fleischer family was well known. If you weren’t buying flowers from Ethel, you were buying medicine from her husband Milton, a pharmacist at Gardnerville Drug from 1952 to 1982. After school, one or more of the family’s three children – Tom, Susan and Debbie – could be found at the Aladdin, helping or playing.

“I remember walking here from Gardnerville Elementary School after school, and I would have my dusting duties,” Debbie said.

“You may have watered the flowers, too,” Ethel said.

“No, I was only 7, I don’t think you let me water the flowers yet,” Debbie ribbed.

Debbie, the youngest child, followed in her father’s footsteps for the first part of her career by becoming a pharmacist and working in that profession for seven years. But counting pills wore thin for her creatively, and she decided to step into her mother’s footsteps and hasn’t looked back since.

“Debbie was a natural,” Ethel said. “She was really good with the flowers and the designing.”

“I loved it,” Debbie said. “You can’t pick up a flower and not be happy. They are beautiful, living things and you can’t help being affected in a positive way every day by that.”

– Joy and sorrow. In the mid-1980s, the Fleischer family experienced many big changes – the store moved across the street to its current, larger location in 1984. The next year, Milton died and Debbie took over the flower shop.

Being a part of a flower shop for 40 years has given Ethel a unique vantage point.

“It’s very rewarding working with the customers and the flowers,” she said. “When you think about it, flowers are used at so many important times of our lives and we share that with them.”

“Flowers do help people,” Debbie said. “You share in their joys and sorrows.”

“We do weddings and happy times, but we also do funerals and sad times,” Ethel said.

The Aladdin Flower and Gift Shop has supported many Carson Valley people over the years in addition to Ethel, Debbie, older daughter Susan Davies, the current six employees and shop dog, Magic, who greets customers.

Carson Valley native Bea Jones, now in her early 90s, worked there for 15 years.

“Bea was truly an artist with the flowers,” Ethel said. “She’s very special.”

Other employees from the Aladdin have gone on to open their own shops in a growing Carson Valley with room for more than one florist, Ethel said.

One former employee was phobic about delivering to funeral homes or cemeteries, Ethel said.

“She was terrified to go to these places, and one time she had to make a delivery to a cemetery, so we told her, ‘Just look for the open grave, set the flowers down, turn around and leave,'” she said.

“So, she went there, saw the grave and when she went to set the flowers down, a man popped up out of the grave – he’d been working in there – and completely freaked her out,” Debbie said.

“Can you imagine that happening?” Ethel said.

– Keeping up with trends. In 1991, Ethel and Debbie were attending a trade show, became enamored with an expensive dehydrating machine and bought it on impulse.

“We bought that instead of a Porsche,” Ethel said.

The freeze-dried product that came out of the dehydrator was a beautiful, perfectly preserved flower that had only one distracting characteristic.

“It was so delicate you could practically look at it wrong and it would shatter,” Debbie said.

In 1993, Debbie concocted a solution to dip the delicate blossoms in, rendering them pliable and strong without compromising the natural beauty.

Now, Aladdin Freezdry Co. sells arrangements of the long-lasting freeze-dried flowers on their Web site, http://www.afdco.com.

“We sell all over the world now,” she said.

– Open house Nov. 9. To help celebrate 40 years in business, the Fleischers invite everyone to come to their anniversary open house Thursday, Nov. 9, from 2-7 p.m.

Hors d’oeuvres, cake and punch will be served and everyone who brings two non-perishable items for the Carson Valley Community Food Closet will be given a free rose. In addition to door prizes, fall items will be on a special anniversary sale.

The Aladdin Flower and Gift Shop is located at 1432 Highway 395 South, next to Sharkey’s Nugget Casino. For more information, call 782-2655.