Growing flowers came naturally to the Luepke family. The grandfather of Vancouver Mayor Rudy Luepke was a florist in Berlin, and members of the family still operate an 80-year-old florist shop here.
The business was established in Vancouver in 1909 by Frank Luepke, who had moved to Portland from Texas in 1908.
Frank’s father, Robert Luepke, had been a gardener on one of the Kaiser’s estates, but wanted a change of scene and emigrated to Texas. He operated a florist shop in Houston in the 1890s.
Frank Luepke, who married Edla Jacobson, a native of Michigan, arrived in Vancouver when the town was booming because of the new Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway. The couple brought a baby, Rudy Luepke.
The son was integrated into the business, and a 1929 Columbian news item claimed Frank and Rudy Luepke “can coax almost anything in the shape of a seed, bulb or cutting to do its stuff.”
After Frank Luepke’s death in 1930, Edla Luepke and Rudy carried on at the shop at 13th and Washington streets.
“The caring for flowers, plants and shrubs leaves Mrs. Luepke with little time for outside activities, what with the making of corsages, floral pieces, centerpieces for Vancouver hostesses, and the like,” one story reported.
Rudy Luepke married Louise Zumsteg, who was a dance instructor with her sister, Florence.
After Rudy’s mother died in 1936, he and his sister Gertrude carried on with the florist venture. Business improved as population soared in the 1940s. One special activity during World War II was preparing large orders for flowers and table decorations, to be used during launchings at the Kaiser shipyards.
A Who’s Who for 1949-50 reported that Rudy Luepke was operating Luepke Florists, Cedar Lawn Farms and Luepke’s Garden Shops.
Cedar Lawn Farms, near Dollars Corner, eventually was sold.
Luepke was elected president of the Chamber of Commerce, and also entered municipal politics. He served on the City Council and filled the mayor’s job for two terms in the 1960s. The Jaycees named Luepke the Vancouver first citizen in 1951, and he also was recipient of a National Brotherhood Week award from the Vancouver Knights of Pythias.
After Luepke died in 1969, Ronald Frichtl bought his share in the company. His wife, Dianne, is the daughter of Rudy’s sister, Gertrude Luepke Gerstein. Gerstein retired about 1974 and died in 1983. The Frichtls then bought Gerstein’s share of the business, and continue to operate the florist firm.