One of midtown Sacramento’s oldest businesses, Relles Florist, is presently celebrating a special anniversary, as the longtime popular florist recently reached its 65th year in business.
ALL IN THE FAMILY. Jim Relles and his sister, JoAnn (Relles) Bradley, stand in front of midtown Sacramento’s Relles Florist. The business is celebrating its 65th year in business. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
Jim Relles, who has been a proprietor of the florist since 1972 and has maintained sole ownership of the business since 2008, said that such a celebration was made possible through a commitment to customer satisfaction that began with his father Ross Relles, Sr.’s founding of the business on Oct. 19, 1946.
“It’s a pretty distinct celebration – 65 years in business,” Jim said. “(Customer service) hasn’t changed since my father started the business. It’s just listening to the customers’ needs and working real hard to get what they want with quality product in a timely manner of their order, and not promising things that we can’t do and promising things that we can do. Customer satisfaction is following through on promises you made to the consumer. You need to follow through and do it and be honest with the consumer. If you can’t do something, then you need to tell them up front or offer alternatives.”
Jim added that like many businesses, Relles Florist, which has been voted “Best Florist” by Sacramento Magazine for the past 11 consecutive years, has survived through its willingness to adapt to changes.
One of the major changes, Jim explained, has been the growing importance of the Internet.
“Ten years ago, we didn’t have a Web site and we didn’t sell over the Internet and now probably 30 or 40 percent of our business is over the Internet, where 10 years ago it was zero (percent),” Jim said. “We now have a Web site, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Most of the younger generation is doing all their business from their smartphones, so we’re in the process of getting a floral app (application). If you want to stay in business, you just have to keep adapting.”
Roots of the Relles family’s florist
During his meeting with the East Sacramento News last week, Jim, who is a cousin of Marty Relles, who authors the series, “Janey Way Memories,” in this publication, shared information about his father’s beginnings as a florist.
RELLES FLORIST was originally located in this building at 2220 J St. The business first served customers at this site on Oct. 19, 1946. / Photo courtesy, Relles Florist
“My dad, growing up, worked for (G. Rossi and Co. florist at 1026 8th St.),” Jim said. “He also worked for Hires (Bottling Co.). They were down on 21st and R (streets). It was the prelude to Norcal (Distributing Co. at 424 17th St.). He (later) went to Arizona State (Teachers College, as Arizona State University was then known) and got his teaching degree, but he came back to Sacramento and he just looked at the business side (of teaching) and decided he didn’t want to become a teacher. Then World War II broke out. After he got out of the war, he worked for Senator Florists (at 1014 11th St.) and I guess about a year later – I think he wanted a raise (from Senator Florists) and they said, ‘No,’ – he decided to go out on his own and open up his own flower shop.”
Five locations of Relles Florist
Although Relles Florist operates at two locations – 2400 J St. and 801 Howe Ave., north of Fair Oaks Boulevard – these current business sites are not the only places where a Relles Florist shop has been located.
Ross Relles, Sr., who gathered additional early experience in his field when he worked as a delivery person for McElhaney’s Florist in Phoenix during his time at Arizona State, established his first florist shop at 2220 J St., within the Meril Studio shops, about 15 blocks from the main downtown business district.
The site suited the business well, since it was located on what was then one of the two main streets connecting East Sacramento, Carmichael and Fair Oaks with downtown Sacramento.
THIS 1947 AD was one of Relles Florist’s earliest advertisements. / Photo courtesy, The Lance Armstrong Collection
Jim said that the site was also ideal due to the fact that it was located within a short distance from several funeral homes, including the N.G. Culjis Funeral Home at 2231 J St., Citizens Mortuary at 2301 J St., Miller and Skelton at 1015 20th St., W.F. Gormley and Sons at 2015 Capitol Ave., James R. Garlick Mortuary at 2001 P St., Cippa and Nicoletti at 1501 28th St. and Harry A. Nauman and Son at 2021 28th St.
On July 11, 1953, Ross Relles, Sr. opened his second shop at 2210 J St. in a two-story house, with a raised basement, that he had purchased and remodeled to accommodate as both his business and his home.
Although this relocation proved to be a worthwhile endeavor for the business, Relles Florist eventually outgrew its original space at this site, as it expanded to the structure’s top two floors and basement.
As was the case with its second location, Relles Florist did not have to concern itself with costly moving expenses, as it relocated a very short distance away to its third site at 2320 J St. It was at this site where the first Relles Florist shop to be built from the ground up was constructed.
This shop, which opened on July 26, 1971, proved to be the last Relles Florist site operated by Ross Relles, Sr., as he passed away on Jan. 15, 1972.
Relles Florist, which opened its Howe Avenue shop in February 1978 and its present midtown site on Sept. 26, 1981, has built a reputation as a strong, family-owned business.
Jim said that altogether about 25 Relles family members, including his brothers, Ross, Jr., Tom and Ronald, and his mother, Margaret, have worked at Relles Florist at various times.
In addition to Jim, his sister, JoAnn (Relles) Bradley, works at the midtown shop, where she has continuously assisted with its success since June 1975.
Also quite notable in the business’s history is former Relles Florist employee Al Balshor, who opened Balshor Florist at its original location at 730 O St. in 1950.
Twenty-one years later, another former Relles Florist employee, George L. Procida, opened Procida Florist at its now former location of 1315 J St.
Relles family history
The Relles family’s history in America began with Jim’s grandfather, an Italian immigrant, named Saverio Relles, who arrived at Ellis Island in New York Harbor on Feb. 4, 1907.
WELL ESTABLISHED. Relles Florist has been located in midtown Sacramento for 65 years. The business currently operates a shop at 801 Howe Ave. and another shop at the site shown above at 2400 J St. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
Jim said that like many immigrants arriving in the United States during this era, Saverio had his surname changed at Ellis Island, since the person who wrote down his last name at this famous inspection station wrote “Relles,” instead of the correct spelling of “Reres.”
Saverio married Helen Sclafani – born Elena Sclafani – in Chicago Heights, Ill. on June 12, 1910.
Although Saverio died on April 16, 1918, he had three sons – George, Ross, Sr. and Martin – with Helen prior to his passing.
Eighteen months later, while residing in Santa Clara, Calif., Helen was remarried, as she was joined in matrimony with Rosario “Ross” Petta, who was a laborer in the construction industry.
Helen and Rosario, who together had four children, Vito, Alice, Katie and Margaret, were living in the capital city at 523 ½ 14th St. by at least 1922.
And as a result of Helen and Rosario’s move to Sacramento during this time, when Relles Florist celebrates its 75th anniversary in a decade, the Relles family will possibly also be celebrating another anniversary – their 100th year in Sacramento.
EARLIER DAYS. Relles Florist, shown in this 1971 photograph, relocated to this pictured site at 2210 J St. in 1953. / Photo courtesy, Relles Florist
For additional information regarding Relles Florist, call (916) 441-1478 (J Street shop) or (916) 920-4911 (Howe Avenue shop) or visit www.rellesflorist.com.