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Clawson bids farewell after 58 years at Roth Florist, a downtown Lafayette mainstay
After starting at 13 and owning the downtown shop for 48 years, Stephen Clawson retires, sells Roth Florist. Plus, Lafayette names next fire chief. More development news for Lafayette, south and east
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STEPHEN CLAWSON SAYS FAREWELL TO ROTH FLORIST AFTER 58 YEARS
Stephen Clawson started helping around Roth Florist, a downtown Lafayette mainstay, when he was 13, in the fall of 1965.
He said he’d had a paper route before that but hated dealing the newspaper bundles in the dead of winter. Molly Roth needed a hand that year during the Home Hospital Fair, a big deal in its day. Roth, in a family business Herman Roth started in 1895 on West Lafayette’s Grant Street, had Clawson water the displays, run errands and do assorted grunt work for a shop that had settled at the corner of Fifth and Main streets in downtown Lafayette in 1942.
“After a while, she realized she couldn’t get rid of me, so she hired me,” Clawson said. “It wasn’t about the money. One thing, I wasn’t doing that paper route. The biggest thing is, I just enjoyed it. And I never stopped enjoying it.”
For a total of 58 years, including 48 as owner.
In February, Clawson handed over the keys to Roth Florist to Christina and Aaron Campbell, who plan to keep the business under the name.
“It got to be a lot for us,” Clawson said. Patty Clawson, his wife and a retired Lafayette teacher, worked full-time at the shop over the past decade, as well.
“If we were there, we were open,” Patty Clawson said.
“But already, I miss the flow and being busy and having customers – our friends, as they came to be, really – come see us and tell us what was going on in their lives, in their business, with their families,” Stephen Clawson said.
Stephen Clawson, a Lafayette Jefferson grad, returned to work at Roth Florist after serving in the Army. He was going to Purdue, working toward a pre-dentistry degree, when Molly Roth approached him in 1975 about buying the business. He said he’d always wanted to be his own boss. He figured he could stick it out with school or have a go with a business he had a decade of experience doing.
“Molly asked me, ‘What do you want to be, a florist or a dentist?’” Stephen Clawson said. “I already knew the answer. … It was just a fun job.”
Stephen Clawson said the past 48 years as owner have been about marking occasions for customers, as families celebrated weddings, joined the Valentine’s Day rush, brought their high schoolers in for prom corsages and came in to order arrangements for funerals and wound up staying to tell stories to someone who’d delivered flowers for all the events that came before. It’s been about offering advice about how flowers out of the clear blue was a form of preventative maintenance for any relationship.
“It’s not the rose, it’s the act that they always remember,” Stephen Clawson said.
Putting in more than a half-century at Fifth and Main streets meant landmark changes for the corner, too. When he bought the business, downtown still had some of the remaining department stores – Rapp’s, Loeb’s, Decker’s, J.C. Penney – and enough other trappings of an old-school retail feel to sustain promotions like Dollar Days on the sidewalks. Amtrak and freight trains ran down the middle of Fifth Street until 1994. Clawson bought his building in 1977 and converted the upper floors into apartments, a move that presaged a trend that would take hold in downtown Lafayette in the decades that followed.
“That’s been my second home, going into that back door,” Stephen Clawson said. “Patty and I want everyone to keep coming to see the new owners and just carry on the tradition we tried to keep there.”
BRIAN ALKIRE NAMED NEXT LAFAYETTE FIRE CHIEF
Brian Alkire, assistant chief of fire prevention, will be the next Lafayette Fire Department chief, Mayor Tony Roswarski announced Wednesday. Alkire will be sworn in as chief during a pinning ceremony June 20.
Alkire will replace Richard Doyle, who is retiring June 21 after 39 years with Lafayette Fire Department, including his time as chief since 2012.
“The appointment of Brian Alkire as our next fire chief is an exciting chapter in the Lafayette Fire Department’s future,” Roswarski said in a Wednesday afternoon release. “Assistant Chief Alkire has over 22 years of outstanding leadership and team-leading abilities, along with his years of training and education that have positioned him to lead our men and women of the Lafayette Fire Department.”
Roswarski said Alkire will spend the coming months working with Doyle for the transition.
Alkire joined Lafayette Fire Department in May 2000, after time as a volunteer firefighter in Sheffield Township. As assistant chief of fire prevention, Alkire oversees fire inspectors and investigators and manages the fire prevention division.
Roswarski also said Wednesday that Capt. Jamie Blacker will be named deputy chief, when current Deputy Chief Steve Butram retires in January 2024. Blacker has been with Lafayette Fire Department for 17 years, after 12 years with the Perry Township Fire Department in Colfax.
AND IN OTHER ANNEXATION NEWS …
The heat Monday night was coming out of Dayton over a proposed Lafayette annexation of about 97 acres near Interstate 65 and Haggerty Lane. (The Dayton Town Board contends the Carr Family Farm LLC property should be part of the small town east of I-65, not in Lafayette. The request took a pause for technical reasons but promises to be back. Here’s a look at that situation, via Wednesday’s edition: “Dayton Town Board tells Lafayette: Back off annexation.”)
But the Lafayette City Council gave initial approval to two other voluntary annexation requests.
The 346 acres across Indiana 38 from the Subaru of Indiana Automotive plant is known as the Steele property, six parcels the city helped broker as a site for future industrial development. Lafayette Tony Roswarski said the city had been trying to help the owners find the right fit for years, with several possibilities falling through, before landing with TM Crowley & Associates. The land, between Interstate 65 and Newcastle Road, sold for $8.6 million sale of 339 acres in December 2021, according to county property records. And it’s been targeted for annexation, city services and a joint tax increment finance district between Lafayette and Tippecanoe County since then. Mike Balog, director of construction and development for TM Crowley, told city council members that the company was marketing the property and asked for the annexation to make the ground more attractive to companies looking for sites. “Cities are typically used to more of the major development projects,” Balog said. “So (companies) perceive it as a situation where they can get their buildings together faster, streamline their approval process and make sure that things don't have conflicting guidelines.” Balog said Crowley didn’t have firm commitments for development, yet. But city officials have coveted the spot, saying they believe it will develop quickly, particularly because it offers one of the few remaining and available rail spurs in the community.
Concord Crossing is expected to have a 960-unit complex of townhomes, apartments and duplexes on 162 acres at the southeast corner of Concord Road and Veterans Memorial Parkway. Roswarski vouched for the voluntary annexation request, telling council members that “it’s a good time to bring it in.”
The council voted unanimously on both requests. The city council will hold public hearings on both requests at its April 3 meeting. A final vote on each would wait until the council’s May 1 meeting.
LAFAYETTE, TIPPECANOE COUNTY PLAN FOR NEW NORTH/SOUTH ROAD
Pending development south of Veterans Memorial Parkway and east of Concord Road has planners thinking about a new north-south road that could relieve some of the pressure from new subdivisions just south of Lafayette.
On Monday, Tippecanoe County commissioners and the Lafayette City Council agreed to update the community’s long-range transportation plan to include a 2½-mile road that would run from Veterans Memorial Parkway to County Road 600 South, about three-quarters of a mile east of Concord Road. The map has it running from Wabash National’s entrance on Veterans Memorial Parkway and along the driveway of Woodland Elementary on its way to 600 South.
Doug Poad, Area Plan Commission’s transportation planner, said there are no set plans or timetable to build the road. But he said planners expect that part of the county to grow quite a bit, going from 1,634 homes and a population of 5,396 in 2018 to a projected 4,836 homes and 10,588 people by 2050. An APC report also expect the number of jobs tied to that area to go from 1,775 now to 5,775 by 2050.
Poad said the area has adequate east-west roads, including Veterans Memorial Parkway and County Roads 450 South, 500 South and 600 South. He said that’s not matched going north and south, limited to Concord Road and County Road 450 East.
Poad said the transportation plan would call for a “non-residential urban collector,” a type of road that would have limited driveway access to help move traffic. It also would call for accompanying trails, particularly to serve TSC’s Woodland Elementary.
OTHER READS …
Journal & Courier reporter Noe Padilla had this from the courtroom Wednesday, in the prosecutor’s ongoing efforts to get records from Purdue about Ji Min Sha, a former student accused of stabbing his roommate, Varun Chheda, to death in their McCutcheon Hall dorm room in October: “Judge releases one of three records on Purdue murder suspect to prosecution.”
Indiana Capital Chronicle reporter Casey Smith has a good outline and explainer about how a charter schools in Indiana could be big winners and traditional public schools stand to lose millions of dollars in the latest draft of the next two-year state budget. The analysis also discusses how a free textbook proposal, advocated by Gov. Eric Holcomb, doesn’t come with money to offset the costs, leaving public schools on the line to cover the rest. (West Lafayette Superintendent Shawn Greiner highlighted that for the school board the other night, saying the district was watching the budget process – and preparing for what that could mean next school year.) Here’s the piece in the Indiana Capital Chronicle: “Charter schools win in proposed Indiana budget amid public advocacy campaign.”
Indianapolis Star reporter Sarah Bowman had this, after Gov. Eric Holcomb released results to tests done on the hazardous waste about to be hauled from the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, to a landfill an hour south of Lafayette: “State test results: Hazardous waste from Ohio train wreck doesn't contain toxic dioxins.”
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