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Building a Legacy: Skinner's Florist

Fred Callahan returned home after serving his country in Vietnam. Unsure of his next move, his godmother stepped in making him the owner of an unlikely business.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In the 1930s, the face of Mid-Westside Jacksonville began to change as segregation barred the Black population from living in many parts of the city.

Durkeeville became the home of Black doctors, lawyers, educators and business people.

Firmly planted along Myrtle Avenue is Skinner’s Florist. Its doors haven't closed in 74 years.

“I've heard rumors where people say we're closed,” Florence Callahan-Moore said. “We are still here and active. Come by and try us out again. Even though Fred Callahan is gone his spirit is still here.”

His photo is neatly placed for viewing on the wall in a tight space that consumed Fred Callahan's life and now his legacy inside of the flower shop.

“To me it's very important that's why I always strive to make the flowers just as pretty as he did,” Moore said. “I'm still learning but I'm trying my best to keep his legacy going and keep the customers happy in any way I can.”

Moore has a fresh outlook on her father's shop. It’s a familiar space with deep roots in Durkeeville with décor dating back more than seven decades.

“We still have the same wooden freezer people are kind of amazed at that,” Moore said. “It's a wooden step-in freezer."

Kept at 40 degrees, preserving memories.

"This was the original freezer she had," Moore said.

It all belonged to Alex and Wilhemenia Skinner. The teal and green colored building where Moore now creates floral arrangements was in fact the Skinner home.

"On the other side of this green building it was her home," Moore said. "My dad probably put the wood panels up and some things have changed but yea this was her lobby."

Wilhemenia would end up handing over her pruning shears to her godson, a Marine who proudly served his country during the Vietnam war but his allegiance was not rewarded in return.

Credit: Florence Callahan-Moore

“Once my dad came home from the Marines she didn't want him to go astray,” Moore said. “She wanted him to stay on-point and she knew she had a business that she could no longer take on so she knew he was someone who could take it on so she - that's why she gave it to him."

For 48 years Callahan would show his gratitude by pouring into Skinner's until he could do no more.

"My dad once he knew he was getting ill he wanted to sell the business,” Moore said. “He didn't want us to make this our life like he made it his own."

Moore's hero died in 2019 and in spite of his request she was determined to keep his flowers and legacy alive.

“I guess he was just like- I'll sell it and y'all can at least get the money off of it,” Moore said. “But to me this is more than just a business this is to me his memory. When people think of Skinner's Florist they do think of Fred Callahan. So I didn't want that to go away just because he passed on.”

Skinner's Florist originally opened on Broad Street but relocated to Myrtle Avenue. The face of Jacksonville's business community has changed and will continue to morph over the years.

You can celebrate Jacksonville's history in June. The city's bicentennial is June 15th. There are events planned leading up to the big day. Details are posted at jax200.org.

Credit: Florence Callahan-Moore

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