A Brief Story of Perry's Florist
Inside the Historic Flower Shop at the 4340 NW 7TH Avenue
Welcoming the Guest at the International Florist Association
William O. Perry, Sr. was a visionary organizer who directed many of his creative energies t establish and enhance economic activity in Miami's African- American commmunity. He was born in Tampa, Florida, on September 30, 1908. He later moved to St. Petersburg with his family and eventually relocated to Miami in 1925.
Perry loved his new home and was dedicated to civic and social improvements in Miami, as demonstrated by the many affiliations he chose and appointments he accepted. Many in Miami came to know him as owner and founder of Magic City Florist, the first licensed African-American florist shop here. Originally located at Third Avenue and Eighth Street, it eventually was renamed Perry's Florist. The flagship store remains in operation on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 40th Street, where Perry relocated the business years ago. A second store, Perry's Florist North, is now located at 18331 Northwest Seventh Avenue.
When the first flowers-by-wire service, FTD, was established and black florists were not allowed to join the membership, Perry reasoned that there was a need for a black-owned flowers-by-wire service. He invited twenty black florist from around the United States and the Bahamas to meet in Miami to explore this possibility. As a result, the group chartered the International Florist Association, which Perry served as president for ten years. Today, with the elimination of strict segregationist policies, Perry's Florist is a member of FTD. Perry retired from the business in 1970, which today is managed by his son, William O. Perry, Jr.
Numerous civic and professional organizations benefited from Perry's interests and talents. The Young Business Men's Club, organized by Perry with twelve other businessmen, elected Perry as its first president. During his tenure, he promoted the Easter Morning Sunrise Service at Virginia Key Beach. In 1950, the club invited opera star Marian Anderson to sing to the first intergrated audience in the Dade County Auditorium.
Perry began developing his organizational skills soon after his arrival in Miami. He joined the Atlas Lodge #308 I.B.P.O.E of W.- the Elks- in 1928.Rising quickly through th e ranks, he was by 1938 elected Exalted Ruler. In 1939, when the Grand Lodge encouraged all member logges to increase membership, Perry initiated more than 500 men and won national recognition for his efforts.
Under perry's leadership, an Elks home was built on Northwest Sixteenth Terrace with Lodge Brothers providing free construction labor. He also led the campaign to build a new auditorium for the present Elk home at Northwest Seventh Avenue an 50th Street.
Beneficiaries of perry's community service work included Holy Redeemer catholic church, where he belonged to the Catholic Men's Club, the st. Vincent DePaul Society and the Usher Board. He also belonged to the Board of Governors of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Adelphean Club, the Old Timers Club ( a group of business and professional men) and the New Providence Lodge #365. He was named Businessman of the Year by Gamma Apha Chapter of Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc., and received the Community Service Award from The King of Clubs of Greater Miami, Inc. He died on September 26, 1996.