Area businessman wants to reinvent former flower shop

Monday, January 20, 2003

For nearly 20 years, Francine Seier ran a lively little flower shop in Cape Girardeau. Buffered by two 100-year-old townhouses along North Pacific, the shop was a place to buy the missus a dozen red ones, your mother a nice bouquet or carnations for the supper centerpiece.

Behind the shop, there was an elegant ivy-filled garden where countless couples tied the knot under a ornate pavilion before walking the few feet to the nearby covered area that could be used for dancing, having a nice meal or complimenting the happy couple.

Seier, the wife of former judge A.J. Seier, died in 1998 after months of failing health. Since then, the weddings have stopped, the garden's flowers have withered and the building has sat empty.

But thanks to the building's new owner, Cape Girardeau resident Rick Hetzel, Francine's Flower Shop is about to live again. Painters have invaded the building. Landscape architects are about to descend on the unattended garden.

"Francine was renowned for her flower garden," Hetzel said. "It was loaded with perennials. Everyone I talked to talked about how beautiful it was. There were many weddings here. We're hoping there will be many more."

Hetzel bought the building -- and the adjacent townhouses -- from A.J. Seier. He has fixed up the cottages and is in the process of renting them. Now, he wants to find a retailer to lease the middle space that had been Francine's Flowers and make it into a business similar to Francine's, with a flower shop, a gift shop or wedding shop, Hetzel said.

Hetzel, who is a former Cape Girardeau police chief and owner of House Doctor, is about to get the garden back in working order. He's totally refurbishing the building, with new canopies and a new interior. Gas lights are going to be added. The flower beds are going to be remulched.

"We think this will add to Cape's old-time charm," Hetzel said, adding the business could open as early as this spring. "When we get this returned to its original condition, it will be wonderful for the city."

To honor Francine Seier, Hetzel is going to name the garden Francine's Courtyard.

"I think that will be a fitting tribute," Hetzel said. "Because even now, in its worse condition, it's so pretty. That's because of Francine."

335-6611, extension 137

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