For 79 years it was the oldest business in Riverside, but on Oct. 16, Pringle’s Flower Shop in downtown Riverside closed its doors for good. Citing health and retirement as the reasons for the store closing, owner Jack Simpson talked about the business that had been a mainstay on East Burlington Street for many years.

Originally located near the alley on Burlington before moving to its present location, the business was started by Mr. Pringle, as Simpson called him. John Simpson, the father of Jack, had a floral shop in LaGrange before joining Pringle at the Riverside shop around 1945.

Jack Simpson, raised in Riverside and having attended the local schools, began helping out at the shop as a youngster, often doing deliveries.

He attended the American School of Floral Arts and became a florist before taking over the business from his father in 1977. Jack and his mother Helen, who also worked at the store, greeted and helped the customers over the many years they were in business.

Remembering some of the events over the years, Jack Simpson reminded us about the time Riverside had what they called “The Good Old Days,” a type of sidewalk sale and mini-fair. Stores for weeks prior to the event passed out wooden nickels, which were redeemable at some of the booths. Jack’s assignment for the day was to go pick up a donkey. He doesn’t remember exactly why, but his father sent him on the errand, driving a Volkswagen bus to pick up his passenger.

Or there was the time the movie “In the Company of Darkness” was filmed in Riverside and Pringle’s was commissioned to do the flowers. He specifically remembered bringing two dozen roses to the set for the birthday of the costume person.

What he says was the most fun was when the shop began to carry private label beer and wine. The first year there were cases of Riverside beer and Riverside wine being purchased very quickly. He increased his wine offerings with many Illinois wineries. The shelves were lined with gourmet offerings from Chef Ivo of Galena; there was something for everyone at Pringle’s.

Who doesn’t remember ordering flowers from Pringle’s for special occasions?”proms, homecoming, birthdays or just grabbing a bouquet for yourself or a gift for someone? Over the years he was there to design floral arrangements for countless weddings or for anything requiring the personal touch. On his last day at the shop, Jack was busy readying the flowers for the Episcopal Church, which he did weekly, while someone came in to make a purchase for Sweetest Day.

“How can you put 79 years of memories into words?” Jack asked.

I think Jack did it very well. He and his mother, Helen Simpson, did want to thank their customers for the many years of business and friendship at the store on Burlington. The business, as well as the Simpsons, will be missed. We’ll especially miss the way Jack would stand in the doorway of his store and visit with people as they made their way down Burlington. Sad to see the flower shop go!

Before Jack married his wife, Jan, he was halfway to earning his hot air balloon license. Well now he can have the time to take a balloon ride and smell the roses. You deserve it, Jack. Thanks to both you and Helen!

There are no plans for the store as yet. I can only hope another business finds a home on Burlington. I need more places to shop in town. In the meantime, floral bouquets will be available at Aunt Diana’s Fudge Shop.

Don’t forget the telethon!

The Riverside-Brookfield Educational Foundation will be having its Telethon 2005 this Saturday live on RBTV. Yours truly will be on from 5 to 7 p.m. Call me with a pledge. Between 4 and 5 p.m. there will be the opening of a time capsule from 1952. Geraldo Rivera will not?”I repeat, will not?”be on hand for the opening.