In 2021, the California Historical Society launched a project to capture the many voices of the Flower Market: growers, wholesalers, florists, former and current staff, board members, and others whose stories are part of the history of the Market. Read the transcripts and listen to audio clips as they talk about the role of the Flower Market in their lives.
These clips are edited from longer interviews conducted over 2021-2022.
Click on the link below each video to access full transcripts on CHS’s digital library.
Valerie and Robbin Lee
Valerie and Robbin Lee of J. Miller Flowers, are second-generation owners of a retail florist on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, taking over the business from their mother, Mary H. Lee, who purchased the store in 1970. Valerie and Robbin talk about their customers, and the buying trips they take weekly to the flower market.
Born in San Francisco but raised in Italy, Willy Neve returned to the United States in 1947 at the age of 19 and, following in his father’s footsteps, started working in the flower industry. In this clip, Willy talks with the Flower Market’s Rose Robinson and Jeanne Boes about the design shows that the Flower Market would hold each year, as well as the Market’s café – a local institution amongst growers and sellers.
Bob Otsuka, former Executive Vice President & General Manager of the Flower Market, worked there for 28 years. Here he describes the functions of the Flower Market and some of the challenges it faced over the years.
Wilton Lee talks about how his family started their business, Lee’s Florist & Nursery, in Berkeley,
California, and the changes it has gone through over four generations.