Flower shop

Dot’s Flower Shop, which used this polka dotted delivery van, recently closed its doors after nearly 150 years in Exeter.

EXETER — After nearly 150 years, a local flower shop that blossomed into the longest running business in town has closed.

Dot’s Flower Shop recently shut the doors to the local floral business that began in 1871 and had become such a staple in town that former owner Leigh Smith never had to advertise.

She called the closure “devastating.”

“Everybody’s heard of Dot’s. Everybody knew about it,” said the 56-year-old Smith, who got her first job in a flower shop when she was a teenager.

Smith bought the shop in 2005 and sold it to Francine Hovarth in 2016.

Hovarth could not be reached for comment on the decision to close the shop, which was most recently located at 152 Front St. and used a van covered in colorful eye-catching polka dots to make deliveries.

Smith said the shop was the oldest running business in town and first opened as Lovering’s Greenhouse on Lincoln Street in 1871. It was operated by the Lovering family until it was sold in 1921 and became known as Dot’s, Smith said.

Smith sold the shop in 2016 because she moved to Tamworth for her daughter’s schooling. If she hadn’t moved, Smith said she would have kept the business.

“I wish somebody could buy it and start it back up again,” she said.

The closure is seen as a big loss to the local business community.

“Dot’s Flower Shop was a longtime member of the chamber and will be missed by many in the community,” said Jennifer Wheeler, president of the Exeter Area Chamber of Commerce.

Smith’s sister, Connie Czaplyski of Epping, recalled how she started volunteering some time at the shop to help out her sister. It grew into a job after she learned how to arrange flowers.

“I very much enjoyed it. I miss it,” said Czaplyski, who worked at the shop off and on for about eight years.

She said she doesn’t know why the shop closed, but acknowledged that the flower industry is facing challenges.

“We noticed during the recession around 2007-2008 it became very hard to hold the business. It was very busy at first, but when people don’t have money and everything costs more they don’t have to send flowers. But then it came back,” she said.

Internet and grocery store sales have forced local shops to wither up.

“It’s pretty much a dying industry,” Smith said. “The grocery store has made a big dent in the floral industry.”

Smith admitted that the recession wasn’t easy, but the shop survived, and her workers kept their jobs.

She said she hopes shops like Dot’s can survive. The key, she said, is offering gifts and other items in addition to flowers.