Oklahoma City florist celebrates colorful 80-year history of family-owned business

Kent Whitnah, co-owner of Capitol Hill Florist and Gifts, carries on the family business that his paternal grandparents founded in 1932.
by Paula Burkes Published: December 23, 2012

My dad, when he turned 62 in 1990, gave Cindy and I the opportunity to buy the shop and pay it out over 15 years.

I always did want to own my own business, and am thankful to have the continued support and part-time help of my family that, with my nephews and my mother's sister, numbers 26 strong. My 16-year-old son, who's a sophomore at Westmoore High School, now is working here after school, just like I did years ago.

Q: What changes have you made since you and Cindy took over?

A: We're doing about five times the business we did in '90, partly through reinvesting the money we made. In '94, we acquired the phone number “FLOWERS,” or 356-9377, which has proved to be a very successful marketing tool.

That same year, we hired Patty Wiggins, an OSU horticulture graduate, who manages our costs of goods, design personnel and daily operations. In 2009, we opened a second store, leasing about 1,200 square feet at 11904 S May. We're the only floral shop in that area, whose ZIP code has the highest per capita income in the state.

Q: The name of your store is Capitol Hill Florist and Gifts. What gifts?

A: Most of them are at our May shop. Leopard covers for mace spray, picture frames, lotions, candles, custom sachets, flower vases for your car, jewelry and more. We used to carry more gifts in our main store but, with the growing competition of Walmart, Homeland and others, we've concentrated on making home deliveries of fresh flower arrangements.

More than 95 percent of our flowers are shipped from the farm in a climate-controlled environment. Here, all of our flowers are kept at 34 degrees, in a 7,000 cubic foot walk-in cooler we built in 2005.

Q: What do you like about the floral business?

A: It's rewarding in a lot of ways, whether it's providing flowers for weddings and getting people started out in life, or flowers for funerals and getting notes from a family that they were just what their lost loved one would have wanted.

Most times, you get to brighten someone's day. In deliveries to offices, everyone you pass wants to know, “Oh, are those for me?”


by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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PERSONALLY SPEAKING

• Position: Co-owner of Capitol Hill Florist and Gifts

• Website: capitolhillflorist.com

• Birth date: Feb. 6, 1966.

• Family: Cindy, business partner and wife of 23 years (they were sweethearts at U.S. Grant High School); children Chet, 16, Shaley, 14, and Cooper, 8

• Education: 1988 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, bachelor's in business administration/management information systems

• Associations: Greater and South Oklahoma City chambers, Society of American Florists and Oklahoma State Florists Association

• Pastimes: OU football games; family getaways to Lake Texoma, where his grandparents in 1966 bought waterfront property; and periodic trips with Cindy to California, Florida and Mexico to visit friends and scuba dive.

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