Biography of A. Dettmer
Alameda County, CA Biographies





A. DETTMER
San Leandro is the home of one of the largest and most important florist establishments in California, the firm of Avasino, Mortensen & Company being known throughout the coast region for the quantity and quality of its products. The growth and remarkable success of this firm is one of the notable commercial fact: in recent Alameda county history and is well worthy of specific mention here. This company had its inception in 1921, when E. W. McLellan, of Burlingame, California, probably the most extensive grower of flowers in this state, sold his three greenhouses, one and three quarters miles south of San Lorenzo, to H. A. Avasino, who was at that time foreman of Mr. McLellan's wholesale house in San Francisco. The plant covered two acres of ground, and soon afterwards Mr. Avasino prevailed upon P. D. Mortensen and A. Dettmer, who also had been in the employ of Mr. McLellan, to come and assist him in the business, as they were both experienced and competent workmen and former coworkers of his. This they did, and soon afterward became financially interested in the business, which has since been operated under the present firm name. The original two acres, which was located on Holland avenue, was completely built up and the rapid growth of their busines soon necessitated more room. This plat contains three greenhouses, each two hundred and sixty by thirty two feet in size, besides a newer and larger house, as well as a boiler plant and pumping station. In 1924 the company bought eight acre more on the west side of Washington avenue, and on this tract they have erected nine greenhouses, each three hundred by thirty two feet in size, four houses four hundred by thirty two feet in size, a separate pumping plant and a seventy fivehorse power boiler plant. This seemed at that time enough additional room to care for all future contingencies, but still the business grew until more space was demanded and in 1927 they bought four acres more, upon which they are now building more greenhouses, propagating houses and a one hundred and fifty horse power boiler plant. They have also recently completed a large warehouse, and have bought a large motor truck for transporting their flowers to San Francisco. The main office of the company is at 175-177 Fifth street, San Francisco, where their wholesale house is located. In addition to the vast quantity of flowers grown in their own greenhouses, they also handle flowers on commission, taking the entire product of several other well known growers in the vicinity of San Lorenzo. In addition to supplying flowers to San Francisco, Oakland and other cities, north and south, along the coast, they make extensive shipments of cut flowers, by railroad refrigerator cars, to the east and middle west. In their warehouse at the present time there are stored three hundred thousand tulip bulbs and two hundred and fifty thousand gladiola bulbs, for their own use, besides large quantities of moss and other ingredients and materials used in the business. Their cut flowers consist mostly of roses, gardenias and carnations, while among the outside flowers are peonies, heather, iris, narcissus, tulips, gladiolas and daffodills. The spectacular success of this firm has been gained through no lucky accident, but has been made possible through the combined industry, progressive spirit and technical knowledge of the three partners, each of whom devotes his time and effort to the business and is not afraid of hard work. They have labored in the spirit of close cooperation and harmony and well merit the prosperity which is now theirs, for they are recognized today as among the largest growers of cut flowers in California. Each one of their buildings has cost an average of four thousand dollars, while their land, at a conservative valuation, is worth three thousand dollars an acre. They employ an average of twenty men in and around the plant, while six men are employed in the wholesale house in San Francisco.

A. Dettmer, who superintends the growing of the flowers, both under glass and in the open, was born in Hanover, Germany, on the 19th of April, 1889, and is a son of Henry Dettmer, who was a farmer and nurseryman. Under his father's instructions, he began to gain a practical knowledge of nursery work at an early age. He attended the public schools and the gymnasium, which was really a technical high school, in his native city. He was then apprenticed for three years to a florist and nurseryman in Berlin, and after the completion of his apprenticeship he traveled extensively, working in some of the leading establishments of Europe. He put in five to six years in France, and in Paris particularly he gained a practical knowledge of the art of growing flowers. In England, he took up fruit growing in London and nursery work in Chester and Liverpool, and then went to Belgium and Holland, and later to Switzerland and Italy, in all these countries taking advantage of every opportunity to increase his stock of technical information. In 1913 Mr. Dettmer embarked on the "George Washington" for the United States, landing at New York city, coming for the purpose of study and observation. He was employed in his line of work in New York, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Chicago and Minneapolis, and while in Minnesota paid a surprise visit to an aunt in Euclid. He found that northern climate too cold for practical floriculture, so went to Houston, Texas, and later to old Mexico. In the course of his travels he finally reached San Francisco. He had intended to visit the Hood River country of Oregon, to satisfy his desire to see the country where were grown the excellent Hood River apples which he had bought in the fatherland. However, that trip was never made, for he soon became busily employed in the flower business in San Francisco, which at that time was making preparations for the Panama-Pacific Exposition. He went to work for E. W. McLellan, at Burlingame, and while there formed the acquaintance of the two men who are now his partners and who also were in the employ of Mr. McLellan. Mr. Dettmerls next position was with James Crockers as manager of his rose gardens at Hillsboro, San Mateo county. He remained there three years, when he was prevailed upon by Mr. Avasino to come to San Lorenzo to take charge of the outside work at his newly acquired plant. Soon afterwards he became a partner in the business, to which he has since devoted his attention. He is regarded as one of the most capable and efficient florists in this part of the country and has been an important factor in the success of the business with which he is identified.

On December 8, 1924, in Berkeley, California, Mr. Dettmer was united in marriage to Miss Erna Tauchman, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Tauchman, of that city, and they are the parents of a daughter, Dorothea. Though his business makes heavy demands on his time, Mr. Dettmer does not neglect his obligations to his community and gives his support to every worthy cause in the interest of the public welfare. Because of his excellent business record since coming here and his sterling personal traits he is held in high esteem by all who know him and is deservedly popular among his associates.

From:
History of Alameda County, California
BY: Frank Clinton Merritt
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chicago, Ill 1928


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