OUR TREASURES

By the 1920s Whangārei was a well established and flourishing town as new technological innovations accelerated social and cultural change.

Commercial sectors expanded as new businesses started up and women seized opportunities in employment not previously undertaken.

One local woman to take advantage of such opportunities was Amy Mary Cooke, who after serving 13 years with the Borough Council as librarian since aged 21, resigned her employ to pursue endeavours of her own. A parting gift from library staff, and perhaps an insight into her ensuing vocation, was a silver jardinière, aptly inscribed with good wishes on her up-coming wedding.

Amy Englund (nee Cooke). Photo/Supplied
Amy Englund (nee Cooke). Photo/Supplied

Two years prior to her marriage to August Englund in 1920, Amy purchased a block of land fronting onto Maunu Rd, and it was here that her future awaited.

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After having plans commissioned for a shop complex in 1923, work started on the building and shortly thereafter Englund established her own floral business.

From archival sources donated to the Whangārei Museum by descendant Heather O'Donnell in 2004, a picture emerges of an independent woman fulfilling a specific retail niche in the town at a time of transition when women were no longer compelled to leave the workforce after marriage.

Initially operating as a florist and fruiterer under her own name, Amy put her floristry talents to good use.

By 1926 she was fully engaged in running her own commercial enterprise with the floral outlet offering a wide range of services encompassing flower care and handling, floral design, flower arranging, merchandising, displays and flower delivery.

Some of the floral business' invoices and correspondence in the Whangārei Museum archives. Photo/Supplied
Some of the floral business' invoices and correspondence in the Whangārei Museum archives. Photo/Supplied

Englund's commute to work was not far, as granddaughter Brigid Ingham recalls, the trek from the family home at 17 First Ave, through the back garden and fruit trees to the Maunu Rd shop on the adjoining section where the smell of flowers abounded.

Having obtained a National Certificate of Florist's Art and being a NZ Institute of Horticulture member, Amy was knowledgeable of flora recognising its potential.

Her ability to create floral designs like wreaths, bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres and complicated displays are evident in bridal photographs and awards won at shows.

While floral services and cut flowers were predominant, 'A M Englund Floriste' also retailed exotic fruit and vegetables.

In addition, there was a miscellany of confectionery available including aniseed sticks, honeycomb, malt bonbons, butter drops or, for those more adventurous, an Egyptian mixture!

A print advertisement in the Northern Advocate classifieds, December 8, 1932. Photo/Supplied
A print advertisement in the Northern Advocate classifieds, December 8, 1932. Photo/Supplied

Being an autonomous businesswoman, Englund posted advertisements in the newspaper promoting her creations while also taking advantage of the popularity of motion pictures, projecting colour ads for her florist business on the big screen.

Shop produce was mainly sourced from Auckland and during the formative years, wharfage and shipping costs were incurred on such purchases as wholesalers and auctioneers dispatched goods by steamer to Whangārei.

It is unknown if Amy managed the shop on her own or employed an assistant, but the florist shop at 14 Maunu Rd was still operating at the time of her husband's death in 1956.

The slogan on the shop's letterhead held in the archives reads "Let Flowers Carry Your Message" and no doubt that is exactly what many Whangārei residents did during the time of 'A M Englund Floriste'.

■ Natalie Brookland is collection registrar, Whangārei Museum at Kiwi North.