Bill and Kathy Ardle ending 53-year run at Schneider’s Florist

In April, 80-year-old Bill Ardle started out on a bike ride in Springfield that would become a squad ride to Springfield Regional Medical Center, then a helicopter ride to Miami Valley Hospital.

On consecutive days, he then traveled by gurney for surgeries on a blood clot in a leg still being treated at a wound center.

This has led Ardle and wife Kathy to sell Schneider’s Florist, the business they have owned and operated for 53 years.

But there’s no need to send them flowers.

Both are elated that their business is passing to Ashley Horn Neinaber, a former favored employee, and her husband, Matt, a couple who met on a blind date arranged by a Schneider’s Florist employee while Ashley was working there.

Said Bill, “We couldn’t ask for anybody better than Ashley,” who will bring decades of experience to the store on North Limestone Street she takes over Jan. 1.

This has left the Ardles free to ponder the pleasures of the past half century (and more) of their lives.

The couple met – big surprise -- while selling flowers for the Floriculture Forum associated with that department at Ohio State University.

“I was in charge of selling chrysanthemums at the football games,” said Bill.

“We’d meet the night before and put the ribbons on them,” Kathy recalled.

Their first Forum trip funded by mum sales was to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa., a floral center built by the du Pont family that to Bill represents “a good example of what capitalism can do for mankind.” They remain members.

Both graduated in 1967 and moved Springfield, where Bill, who is three years older and worked his way through college, was working for a local floral grower beset by what might be called “multiple boss syndrome.” The syndrome was complicated by all the bosses being members of the same family.

So, Bill hired on with Denny Tsugranes, who had purchased the flower shop founded by Glenna Schneider on south side of McCreight Avenue just west of Lowry Street.

When the Ardles bought the business in 1971, “They were talking about taking that bend out of McCreight by the cemetery,” Kathy said.

Those changes never came. And though conveniently located next to Ferncliff, Schneider’s suffered from having just four parking places in a drive that forced cars to back up on to McCreight.

A six-year search for a new location ended in 1985 when Cathy noticed there were no longer cars in the parking lot at the Godfather’s Pizza then at Limestone and Ward streets. Better than that, they’d found a building they couldn’t refuse — a place built in 1930 to house Leedle’s Florist on the main level with office space upstairs for Mr. Leedle, man whose architectural offices would operate there.

By the time of the move, the distribution of labor between Bill and Kathy, who have two sons, had been well established.

“She’s the boss,” Bill said. “Kathy is very smart … has lot of energy (and) can outwork anybody.”

She insists “we all worked together,” and says her work habits are the result of a gene passed on by her family of origin.

“My parents owned a bakery in Buffalo (N.Y.) I saw they went to work at 3 in the morning and came home at 3 in the afternoon, so I just thought everybody did that. That’s what self-employed people do.”

The Ardles had ample opportunity to experience another joy of self-employment: worry.

“The first few years were a little bit rough because we had limited capita,” Kathy said. “So you would hope you’d get some checks in the mail to pay the bills” as they came due.

Said Bill, “Sometimes we’d go to the post office multiple times a day” to see if those checks had arrived.

Until they obtained a line of credit to deal with cash flow problems, they were helped by local business owners who faithfully patronized their shop. Among them were accountants Bill Brannick and Maury Schiffman and Richard Kuss of Bonded Oil – “Mr. Kuss particularly,” Bill said. “He did much more than the Kuss Center. He did a lot for individuals. He was a good man.”

The two also credit their good help for their success, including the retired firemen they hired to make deliveries in the early years because of their knowledge of street locations in Springfield.

“Over 50 years ago, we had a firefighter — he could do 100 deliveries a day himself” in a day, Bill aid.

Kathy qualifies that by adding deliveries in those days were concentrated in areas near the shop.

Since moving into their current location, Bill has made it something of a hobby to post messages on the Schneider’s sign that sits along Limestone Street. In addition to advertisements for flower sales and reminders of upcoming holidays, Bill has posted some of his original or favorite sayings.

Among them is this: We are free to choose, but not free to choose the consequences of our actions.

The longtime members of Southgate Baptist Church also have posted religious messages, and were brought up short one day when after Bill posted one mentioning sin, customers said they were unfamiliar with the term -- a clear sign how much change comes with passage of time.

But not all change is bad.

The two of them missed a family reunion years ago because they were unable to find in Ferncliff Cemetery a grave that they ultimately decorated in St. Bernard’s Cemetery.

Said Kathy, “Now, if you deliver to Ferncliff, they’ve got a GPS system for you, so anybody can find a grave.’

Deliveries to cemeteries is a reminder that “we (often) see people at hard times in their lives,” a reality she finds balanced by another reality: That florists tend to have long careers “because people who buy flowers are nice people.”

As for the pandemic?

It was good for florists all over the country “because people couldn’t visit, couldn’t hold funerals” but those same nice people wanted to express their care and love.

The remote work trend that came with the pandemic also allowed Ashley and Matt Neinaber to move back to the community where they grew up and to buy Schneider’s. (He is a vice president of accounts receivable for Ensemble Health Partners and works remotely.)

And with decades of experience managing floral operations for Jungle Jim’s and Benken Florist, both of Cincinnati, Kathy said, “Ashley will take the business places that we could never think of.”

“I’m going to start with baby step,” said the new manager, a graduate of Northeastern High School and Clark State College, “but there’s definitely room to grow,” particularly in the area of providing flowers for weddings.

And, as the Ardles learned, in a flower shop, room to grow is a good thing.

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