“God bless. Stay well,” Carmen Bolin said as he helped one of his last customers, the Rev. Michael Zipay, carry several floral arrangements to a waiting car. “Make sure you don’t slam on the brakes.”
The priest assured the florist he would drive carefully to safeguard the glass vases and said he’d miss Floristry by Carmen Bolin, which officially closed on Monday after more than 30 years at its West Union Street, Kingston, location.
“They always do a fantastic job and give us a good price,” said the pastor, who had hoped to order flowers for Wednesday’s confirmation ceremony at Holy Family Church in Luzerne but realized the shop would be closed by then.
“Don’t worry. My brother can handle it,” said Bolin, whose brother John runs Flowers by Lucille, a Wyoming shop that used to belong to their mother.
As for Carmen’s Flowers & Gifts in Exeter, Bolin’s grandparents established it, and his first cousins run it today. “We all get along,” he said. “We help each other.”
Coming from a family so entrenched in the floral business, why have Carmen Bolin and his wife, Mary Beth, decided to give it up?
Actually, the answer is family.
“My wife and I have a new station in life,” he said. “We’re going to become grandparents.”
The Bolins are eager to have the freedom to visit the little bundle of joy, soon to be born to their son, Shane, and his wife, Irene, who live in New York City, so they decided to retire. Their twin daughters, Lanna and Rena, also live in New York, but the Bolins, who live in Wyoming, don’t intend to move any closer to their children.
“We like it here; we love the Valley,” Carmen Bolin said, adding he expects to spend more time hiking and biking, skiing and golfing.
With all his outdoor activities, Bolin said, he enjoys watching the flowers blossom in an outdoor setting.
“There’s only one who can make the best, prettiest arrangements, and that’s our God,” said Bolin, who said he prayed for guidance about when the best time would be to retire.
His spirituality also came into play during his long career bringing flowers to people, which he considered a ministry.
“We’ve been able to add to the joy on joyous occasions and to be a comfort in times of sorrow,” he said. “That was fulfilling to me.”
“To read a bride’s mind after a few minutes and help her prepare the wedding of her dreams, that was a big deal,” he added, estimating he provided flowers for several thousand weddings.
A third-generation florist, Bolin started out sweeping floors, waiting on customers and weeding and watering the plants in his grandparents’ greenhouse. He encouraged his children to enter other fields so they could take pride in their own successes, and they did, working in law enforcement, in probation and as a manager for Tiffany & Co.
Now Carmen Bolin is retiring just before the busy seasons of Easter, Mother’s Day and high-school proms.
“In this business, you’re always fighting the clock,” he said. “You buy the product just in time, and you deliver the product just in time. Hopefully you get paid just in time, too.”
He won’t miss the hectic nature of the job, but he will miss what he calls “the best part — the people you meet.”
Now he’s excited to begin a new chapter of his life.
“One door closes,” Father Zipay said during his recent visit. “And another one opens.”