Inspired by his experience as a youth working in a wholesale floral business, Albert A. “Al” Balshor launched Balshor Florist in 1950, where, family and friends say, he quickly developed a reputation as an artist, astute businessman and ardent booster of Sacramento’s Southside community.
This week, the family-run florist shop at 2661 Riverside Blvd. was preparing for the funeral of its founder. Mr. Balshor, known to many as “Mr Southside,” died March 19 at age 90 following a brief illness.
“My father was a self-made man,” said son Jerry Balshor.
One of 12 children, Mr. Balshor was born Nov. 22, 1924, in a house that the family still owns on U Street in Sacramento. His father, Alexander Arthur Belchoir, and mother, Graca Joaquina Nunes Secco, immigrated to the United States from Portugal, by way of Hawaii. His father died in 1929, when Mr. Balshor was 5 years old. He was raised by his mother and some of his older siblings.
Jerry Balshor described his father as a “go-getter” who began working at an early age, with jobs that included delivering The Sacramento Bee, filling orders at Piazza Floral Wholesale, driving a three-wheeled motorcycle to make deliveries for Willis and Martin Drug Store, and selling boxing programs at the old L Street Arena.
He played football at Sacramento High School and recalled defeating archrival McClatchy High School in the annual Thanksgiving Day game.
Upon graduation, Mr. Balshor was drafted and served with Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe as an ambulance driver, participating in the Battle of the Bulge.
Mr. Balshor and the former Maria Sequeira were married on New Year’s Day 1948. Their families were friends, and the two had known each other since he was 9 and she was 6 years old. “My grandmothers on both sides were great friends,” Jerry Balshor said.
On Nov. 4, 1950, Mr. Balshor opened his florist shop at 730 O St. He relocated to Riverside Boulevard years later, when the state bought the O Street property, said longtime friend Manuel Perry.
Perry said connections between his family and the Balshor family date back to the early 1900s. But the two men became fast friends after Mr. Balshor provided the flowers for Perry’s wedding 59 years ago come April 1. It was a big wedding, with 10 maids of honor, Perry said – and it also happened to be Easter.
“He never complained,” Perry said, although he recalled Mr. Balshor did ask years later, “You son of gun, why did you get married on Easter?”
Perry, who is in the insurance business, said he and Mr. Balshor are both past presidents of the Southside Improvement Club. They also worked together as members of the American Portuguese Club to raise funds for an American Portuguese Veterans Memorial to be installed on the state Capitol grounds.
“He was a good businessman,” Perry said. “What he said, you could take it for being the gospel truth. He never reneged on anything.”
When he had to relocate his business, Mr. Balshor had his eye on the Riverside Boulevard location, but his bank refused to give him a loan. “They said the building was too big for what he wanted to do,” Perry said.
Perry recalled introducing Mr. Balshor to the manager of another bank, who approved a loan. Balshor Florist went on to prove that it could support the retail space and then some, Perry said.
Jerry Balshor said his father was an artist when it came to floral design. He offered flowers and arrangements for weddings, funerals, holidays and special occasions, as well as what he called “doghouse flowers” for husbands seeking to make amends. His father’s favorite flower, he said, was the red rose, which adorns the shop’s business cards.
Mr. Balshor was an avid outdoorsman, who enjoyed duck and pheasant hunting, and fishing at Caples Lake. An Oakland A’s fan, he attended all three of the A’s World Series championships in the 1970s, his son said. He also was a 49ers season-ticket holder for 34 years.
Mr. Balshor was a supporter of community athletics, as well, serving as president of the Pacific Little League and sponsoring teams in various sports, including baseball, softball and bowling.
Jerry Balshor said his father was devoted to his family and a strong role model for his children. He imparted lessons through favorite sayings such as “You catch a lot more flies with honey than salt and vinegar” and “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Mr. Balshor and his wife were married for 67 years. Jerry Balshor said his father always gave his mother three little kisses before he left for work each morning and three little kisses when he came home.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Balshor is survived his by daughter Judie Plummer, and sons Al Jr. and Jerry Balshor, all of Sacramento.
Viewing and meditation will be held from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at Klumpps Mortuary, 2691 Riverside Blvd., with a Rosary following at 6 p.m. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church at 12th and S streets in Sacramento.
Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.