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Centerway Floral owners selling longtime family shop, but not much will change


Flowers have been part of the Sanderson family’s lives for decades, dating back to a patriarch’s fascination with tropical plants while stationed in the South Pacific during World War II.

Centerway Floral has served as the family flower hub for 50 years. Friday, the Sandersons sold the shop and turned over control to new owners.

Ron and Rhoda Sanderson have owned the store since 1998, when they took over after the death of Ron’s mother, Charlotte. But after Ron’s triple bypass surgery last year, they knew it was time to consider retirement.

“We enjoy doing this, and we still do, but we’d like some time to go travel,” Rhoda said, noting they have two sons and young grandkids living in Cincinnati.

The Sandersons have earned the break. They built their business on good customer service and high-quality arrangements people can’t find at a big-box retailer. Rhoda believes the shop’s repeat customers—sometimes generations from the same family—keep coming back because employees try to personalize each order.

Whether they’re planning a funeral, wedding, anniversary or another occasion, customers have brought in personal items highlighting a family member’s passion. Arrangements have been designed around ice skates, cowboy boots and even a slide trombone, Ron said.

Ron said he and his four siblings all worked in Centerway Floral growing up, and a few had their own shops. They picked up the passion from their father, Merlin, who cultivated the interest while he was surrounded by exotic plants in the Navy.

Back in Wisconsin, Merlin started two other flower shops on the outskirts of Janesville, one in Fulton and rented greenhouse space near Riverside Park. But it was Centerway Floral that became the family’s second home, Ron said.

The shop is in an unusual location. Tucked in a residential stretch of Centerway just east of Milton Avenue, it’s the only business on the block.

Ron and Rhoda credit their employees and strong customer base for helping them thrive despite not being near a strip mall or other commercial stretch.

“I think people come back to places that treat them well. I know I’m that way when I go shopping,” Rhoda said. “If people don’t pay any attention to you, you’re not going to go back. Like, ‘It’s a job to wait on me?’ No.”

While Ron and Rhoda are stepping aside, the shop’s daily operation will stay true to family tradition. The new owners, Tonya Williams and Alexander Fieiras, will continue to do floral arrangements and build on the Sanderson reputation.

“We want everything to continue. It’s been there 51 years. We don’t want to change that,” Fieiras said. “We want to continue what they built to be a great tradition in the Janesville area.”

Williams and Fieiras plan to update a few things. They’ll give the store a website and social media presence, neither of which it currently has.

They plan to use the greenhouse to grow food using a hydroponic system. The shop’s new name, Centerway Flower Shop and Greenhouse, will reflect that.

The Sanderson family will still be represented. Ron and Rhoda’s daughter Angie Garey and their niece Bernadette Sanderson will continue working there.

Fieiras and Williams don’t have much of a floral background, so they’ll focus on hydroponic food. Angie and Bernadette will be essential to maintaining the business’s floral side, and Fieiras calls them “our stars.”

Ron and Rhoda will make a return appearance in just a few weeks as the store prepares for Valentine’s Day, the busiest time of the year.

The names on the ownership deed have changed. The name on the external sign will change. But inside, the shop still will produce the floral artwork that has made it a Janesville institution for many families.

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Hundreds expected to cycle through downtown Janesville in summer bike tour


The Tour of America’s Dairyland, a series of bike races held over 11 days in different Wisconsin cities, is expected to bring hundreds of cyclists and spectators to downtown Janesville on June 26.

2018 is Janesville’s first year on the tour, which is also celebrating its 10th anniversary, said Bill Koch, executive director of the tour’s host organization, Midwest Cycling Series.

Beloit hosted a day of competition in 2014, and East Troy has in past years, according to the tour’s website.

The full tour schedule for 2018 has not yet been released.

The Janesville Velo Club is the local host for the event, Koch said.

Club President Paul Murphy said he could not share details of the race until a formal announcement is issued.

Murphy has worked on bringing the tour to Janesville for two years, he said. Tour officials look for locations with enthusiasm and solid organizing groups.

The tour will bring about 1,000 people into Janesville, including riders and their support teams, Koch said. He estimates the event will attract 2,500 to 4,000 spectators, many from the Janesville area.

The tour’s most popular location, Downer Avenue in Milwaukee, attracts between 15,000 and 25,000 spectators annually, Koch said. Cyclists have been racing annually on the Milwaukee thoroughfare for 40 years.

“Janesville should aspire to be like Downer,” Koch said.

Races are expected to last from 10:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Koch said. The tour features criterium racing, in which riders race on closed road circuits.

Janesville will host seven to 10 races and a local event determined by the Velo Club, Koch said. Races will be divided by levels of experience.

Cyclists from more than 40 states and 15 countries participate in the tour each year, Murphy said.

Downtown businesses and residents can expect changes to their daily routine the day of the event, Koch said. Those details are still being worked out, Murphy said.

Koch said his organization is “honored” to be welcomed to Janesville.

“It is a very exciting event downtown Janesville hasn’t seen before,” Murphy said.

The tour runs from June 21 to July 1.

Angela Major 

Craig’s Jacob Ngobi, right, runs past Madison East’s Damontae Thompson in Big Eight Conference action Friday at Craig High School. Though Craig defeated East on a buzzer-beating shot earlier in the season, this time East took an early lead and cruised to a 75-56 victory. The Cougars slipped to 5-7 on the season and 4-6 in conference play. Story on Page 1B.


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