Watson’s Flowers is still flourishing in the East Valley after four generations.
The business started in 1927 by Irene Watson, the great-grandmother of current President/owner Nathan Johnson.
“She was known in Mesa as the ‘Rose Lady,’” said Johnson. “She went door-to-door in the City of Mesa back in the late 1920’s, trying to get everybody to buy rose bushes. She wanted Mesa to be known as the City of Roses.
“So, she sold thousands of rose bushes back in Mesa and she used the proceeds from that to make the down payment on the property we’re currently on.”
That property is on Apache Boulevard just east of the Loop 101 in Tempe. When Irene bought the property, it was located on Main Street in Mesa but the boundaries changed.
Watson’s Flowers more recently has opened locations in Mesa at Main Street and Higley Road and in Gilbert at Val Vista Drive and Guadalupe Road.
Johnson’s great-grandparents bought 17 acres along with a one-room adobe hut and built around the original location.
Johnson said he still has rose bushes his grandmother had planted in the back of the Tempe shop and that they still produce beautiful roses twice a year.
Johnson’s great-grandfather was a chicken farmer but his business didn’t do so well because too many chickens died during the hot summer. But his great-grandmother was able to grow beautiful flowers in the fall and spring.
They lived down the street from a downtown Mesa hospital. Johnson said people would bring tin cans to his great-grandmother and for a quarter, she would fill them with flowers. She then realized she could make money selling them.
In 2000, Johnson’s parents sold all but one of the 17 acres at the Tempe location. On that one acre, flowers are grown March through May.
“I grew up in the fields,” said Johnson. “From the time I could lift a broom, I was sweeping the floors but I mostly worked outdoors planting, harvesting, doing water turns and all of that.
“When I became older in my teenage years, I finally came into the store and started doing a lot of deliveries. I then went to college, got married. I graduated from ASU with a degree in finance. My family hired me back while I was still in college and made me a manager in 2004. Then I decided to buy the company.”
After 92 years in business, Johnson credits the continued success of the family business on the quality of the flowers.
Johnson said customers send him emails and tell him in person that their flowers are still fresh 2 1/2 to 3 weeks later.
When not growing flowers at the Tempe shop, Watson gets the rest mainly from California and South America.
“I have great flowers,” said Johnson. “That’s my best advertising — one of my bouquets in someone’s home or at their work. The other reason why we’re still in business because our customers come back. They like us. They like our flowers. I have customers, fairly regularly, who have ordered with me for decades and some customers who are generational.
“I’ll get a grandmother in here with her daughter and the granddaughter is getting married and they’ve all gotten their wedding flowers from us.”