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  • Kathleen Walter, G.R.B.H.

Independence Day Parade Marshall has a Long History in Glen Rock: Meet the Perry Family!

The land where Perry’s Florist is began as the gathering area of the Munsee Lenape Indians who inhabited the area seasonally.  As more and more Dutch settled on their lands in the 1660s, the numbers of the Munsee dramatically decreased due to their susceptibility to European diseases. The Hopper family occupied the land. Two parts of the Hopper Family (Garret and Hendrick) divided the land stretching across much of what is the eastern end of the Borough of Glen Rock. Their farms met where the Hopper Family Cemetary is today on Spotswood.  There is some confusion as to when the first William Thruston took over the property, as we have a school tuition bill from 1826. Thanks to tax records, we can confirm that by 1831 the Thurston family was in control of 200 acres of land extending from Harristown Road in Glen Rock to Fair Lawn Avenue.  The

Tuition Bill for William Thurston 1826

Thurston family was producing on their farm from at least 1839 through 1950. A stock watering trough inscribed with the Thurston name is still on the Perry property today! The farm produced tulips and radishes for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Radishes were especially popular at Christmas, New Year's, and Valentine’s Day for their festive color in the middle of winter.  The powerful Mrs. Caroline Astor, currently depicted on HBO’s Gilded Age, hated that hotel that her nephew built right next to her grand NYC residence; she thought it ruined the neighborhood, so she did not consume many of those Glen Rock radishes! In 1922, the Thurstons replaced a series of

The Thurston Greenhouses circa 1920s

coal-heated greenhouses on the property that had been built in the 1880s.  The Thurstons also built 4 houses in the area for different branches of their family. As the years went by and the farm management became challenging, the family began selling off part of their property to developers. Parts of their property turned into the Monmouth Road area where Roughgarden Houses were built and the Junior High School was constructed in 1939 on a section of the farm.

At the start of the 1950s, Walter Perry Jr. worked in Madison, New Jersey at the Watchung Rose Company. New Jersey shipped their roses all across the U.S. in 1954, even as far as California because we had developed a special method of cold storage for the delicate blooms. 

As Walter searched for a place where he could open his own wholesale florist business,

Glen Rock showed great possibilities. According to a pamphlet published by the League of Women Voters in 1954, Glen Rock had a population of 10,750 living in 3,300 houses that ranged in price from $14,000 to over $40,000. Families of 4 or 5 children were common in town, thanks to the post-war baby boom. 3,200 of the population were children under the age of 18 and 50% of all the town's tax dollars went into the school system.  

Downtown Glen Rock in the 1950s

By 1950, the final Thruston greenhouses were abandoned and a building company was originally scheduled to take over the property. As soon as they found out how expensive it was going to be to hook up to the Glen Rock sewer systems (we were a very forward-thinking borough council with town planning and one of the only in the area with a municipal sewer system) the company backed away from the deal. The next company that “purchased” the property at an auction completed their deal on Sunday.  Because of Bergen County Blue Laws, the sale was null and void!  Walter Perry Jr was lucky that he showed up the very next Monday with a check in his hands.  He was now the owner of 4 acres on Harristown Road, and Perry’s Florist was born. 

Walter Perry Junior opened his business on Harristown Road with a sign selling tomatoes. According to the family, the tomatoes were not that tasty, but the floral products were terrific!  The business developed and Walter changed the coal burners in his greenhouses to oil-burning and automated heating.  Before Marcia Perry spent her first Thanksgiving with her future in-laws on the farm, she was told that they were going to need her help with the stuffing.  Marcia practiced making that great American seasonal treat with her mother to try to impress her future in-laws, only to discover upon arrival that she was instead, helping the Perry family stuff the Santa Clause decorations for the outdoor display! Marcia knew she was becoming a florist gardening wife and threw herself into the role even on her wedding day.  She sewed her favorite yellow sweetheart roses in a waterfall design onto her wedding gown so the effect was that her beautiful bouquet was spilling down the front of her dress! Marcia was a part of the business in every way.

Even as she was recovering from the birth of her first child, Walter, in Valley Hospital Marcia

kept tabs on the cement pouring for the Karl Kemm Loven-designed edition of the garden center.  The iconic A-frame structure was added to the front of the Perry’s Florist building in 1960, and the first thing Marcia did upon bringing baby Walter III home was to tuck him safely into an orchid box and work in the flower house for two hours while he slept! 

In 1970, Perry’s Florist and Garden Center suffered a fire right before Thanksgiving.  The building housed all the completed arrangements for many people’s Thanksgiving Day tables.  While the fire department saved the arrangements, the smell left them unusable. Fellow florists from Newark heard about the catastrophe and swooped in the next day with all the supplies the Perrys needed to make sure no order went unfilled. 

Walter Perry Junior was a Glen Rocker for the rest of his life and he truly believed that this town was a “place to come home to.” After day trips with the rest of the family in the car, he would insist on driving through downtown to “say goodnight to his town.”  The Perry family members support the Garden Club, are members of the Chamber of Commerce, and support the beautification of downtown, support the Glen Rock Ambulance Corps so much they were made lifetime honorary members, Walter Perry III has been a member of the Glen Rock Fire Department for 43 years, Walter Perry III and his siblings all graduated from the Glen Rock School, and Walter Perry III’s children both graduated from Glen Rock High School.  Joanne Lowe Perry was a medic for Valley Hospital which covered Glen Rock and is a deputy in Glen Rock's Office of Emergency Management, a member of the Central Business District Commission, and the 4-Day Fun Fair Committee. Even now in retirement, Marcia Perry is an active member of the Red Hats in Glen Rock.

Based on their wire sales volume, Perry’s Florist has been ranked in the top 2% of florists nationally. 

Dan Perry is working with his father, Walter Perry III, and will be taking over the business in the future.  Dan is a skilled wildlife photographer and took the opportunity to continue part of his studies in Africa. Some of his work was displayed in the Friends of the Library. Daniel is also a member of the Central Business District Commission and the 4-Day Fun Fair Committee. Walter Perry Jr and Marcia Perry heard the expression that Glen Rock was a “bubble” years and years ago but, they knew it was a great place to raise a family.  

Walter Perry III on Mothers' Day

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