With Holland still trying to rebuild itself after World War II, the young generation did not see much opportunity for work in the once prosperous nation. The economy lay in ruin and the search for a better life was on everyone’s minds. Canada’s immigration policy in the 1940’s and 1950’s promised a land of opportunity and many Dutch citizens chose to leave their native country in search of something better.
At the age of 23, Ted van der Zalm said his good byes to his family in Holland and set sail for Canada, where his brother John had immigrated to several years before. Finding work wherever he could, it was not until 1957, when Ted purchased a rundown flower shop on Ontario Street in St. Catharines, that the entrepreneurial desire started. At the time of purchase, Colonial Flower Shop was netting a whole $5.00 per week.
The 60’s …
Saw 3 more van der Zalm brothers, along with their mother; make the leap of faith for a better life in Canada. Jim, Clemens and Arnold joined their brother Ted in the flower business on Ontario Street, but all had to find extra work to make ends meet. Whether pruning grapes at $0.40 per hour or improving to factory work at Dofasco and CIL Chemicals for $1.65 per hour, hard work was the only way to put a piece of bread on the table. When Arnold landed a job at GM for $3.35 per hour, they knew things were only going to get better.
Colonial Florists Established
It was in 1961 that the 4 brothers decided to pursue greenhousing as their focus and they purchased 20 acres of land on Broadway Avenue in St. Catharines and incorporated Colonial Florists Ltd. From that point on, hard work and sacrifice was the only way that they were going to make it. Cucumbers and tomatoes were the first products grown. With prices not all that attractive, they decided to get into floriculture. Potted indoor plants such as pot mums, lilies and hydrangeas were the starting point and a little corner of geraniums for spring sales. It was not long before they all realized there was a demand for geraniums and that set the foundation for what Colonial has become today.
Rooted in Quality
Twelve expansions since the beginning ensures that there is no longer a need to look for a part time job. Over the 50 years, there have been many major changes such as automatic watering and misting, computer controls, shade systems, rolling shipping carts, hot water heating and a biomass boiler.
However, on thing that hasn’t change throughout the 50+ years …