Perhaps 25-year-old Margaret was a thorn in her father’s side when she turned her back on the family farm and decided to set up a flower shop. “People will always want to eat, but will not always buy flowers” he warned her. But, determined to prove him wrong, the self-confessed workaholic began her quest to set up one of the north’s most successful florists. “I thought I’d try it anyway,” she said. That was 60 years ago.
“I found a shop in the centre of Preston and began renting it for a pound-a-week,” said 85-year-old Margret Mason.
“I bought a brand new van for £500 and had it painted bright yellow with my name and a big red rose – for Lancashire – on the side. Nobody had yellow vans in those days – it’s the best colour – the clearest. I was advised to have a fashionable design on the van and call the shop something different but I just wanted to use my name.
“That’s how it’s been ever since. I took £47 on the first day I opened and four weddings were booked too. I’m not sure how that happened really.
“Since then all my vans have been yellow with my name and a red rose on the side – in fact, I’ve lost count of how many vans I’ve had. I always buy them new and change them every three years or when they’re ready. Vans are my best advert – they need to look good.
“I’ve had a lot of Toyotas. I began buying Hiace vans from Mr Moon’s in Wigan in the 1970s. They were good for our job – for loading and reliability.”
Today Margaret has two Proace vans both painted in her trademark yellow. She still drives them occasionally, especially when it’s busy.
“My own car is a hybrid Auris estate. It’s a ’14 plate and the best thing since sliced bread – it’s so easy to drive it just feels like a part of me. I think I’ve had about eight Toyota cars. I once took a delivery out in my car and the customer complained – they had wanted the flowers to arrive in a yellow van!” she laughed.
After thirty years of renting, Margaret bought the original shop and the two neighbouring buildings. Her business supplies individuals, businesses and events with flowers and props across the north. She also has commercial premises on the family’s farm in nearby Freckleton.
She employs about 15 people. “My manager, Debbie, started with me when she was 16 and she’s in her 50s now – my staff stay with me a long time – I think I work them so hard they don’t have time to visit the Job Centre.
“I work long hours too – you have to, in business – I start at 6:30 six-days-a-week except Sundays when I play the organ at church. I’ve never had time to get married. But I suppose there may still be time!?
“Nowadays it’s always very busy at this time of year. In the 1960s Valentine’s Day wasn’t such a commercial thing. In those days I can remember selling red roses for just four shillings each.”
Far from a thorn in his side, her father would now, doubtless agree, Margaret has blossomed into a true red rose of Lancashire to be proud of.