Town of Canterbury CT

Town of Canterbury
1 Municipal Drive
Canterbury CT 06331

Sally Romanoff

I remember Sally Romanoff when I was a child as always being friendly and outgoing. I didn't know that she also wore many hats. Besides being a wife and mother, Sally was a grocery storeowner, a representative to Connecticut legislature, a floral designer and an orchid grower.

In 1918 when Sally was two weeks old, the Havenens, moved to Canterbury from Brooklyn. Eventually they lived in the center of Town called the Canterbury Green. At that time, the road from Brooklyn was just a cart path and everyone in that area of Canterbury placed their mailbox at the Green because the mailman didn't go south past the Congregational Church.

Sally remembers the Fourth of July was always a big event in Canterbury and most of the townspeople met at the Canterbury Green to celebrate. There were lots of firecrackers and once a skyrocket flew into her father's barn and the haystacks started on fire. Since practically everyone in Town was at the celebration, they put out the fire and went on with the activities.

As a girl, Sally and Marguerite Simpson and Margaret Robinson were pals and all went to 4H camp together. Malcolm Wibberley drove them and many of the neighborhood children to camp. Malcolm would also pick and deliver apples from his farm to all the schools in town.

Sally met her husband Bill Romanoff who worked at the Frink and Wright store across the street from her house. Bill was on the building committee for the Dr. Helen Baldwin School along with Arnold Kerr, Rev. William Tyler, Elva Lovell (everyone who went to school in the 50's and 60's remember Mrs. Lovell) and Ralph Lovell. The school was built in 1947 with help from local citizens and donated materials.

In 1935 Bill and Sally were married and in 1939 they bought the Frink and Wright store and became shop owners. In 1953 they sold it to Michael Pappas and went into the orchid business full time. Eventually, Michael bought Sally's family home (the Havenen property) and built what is now Better Val U.

Bill had a dream to grow orchids and started with one exotic orchid. He worked at the grocery store, but at night he would read everything he could to discover how to grow and hybridize orchids. Orchid growers would not tell outsiders their growing secrets so Bill and Sally had to figure out, by trial and error, how to grow them. In this day and age orchids can quickly be cloned, but when the Romanoffs began they had to learn how to grow individual plants. They couldn't buy seeds so they had to use orchid pollen. At first the pollen would get moldy and die, and finally they realized the growing medium had to be bacteria free and even breathing on the soil would cause mold to form. They had to create a bacteria free area and use a sterilized case and tongs to work with the pollen. Once the pollen sprouted and seedlings grew to the proper size they separated them and put them in a container of California Redwood bark. Eventually, they began to take orders for their orchids and delivered them all over New England.

They started with a small green house about 7x9 attached to the house and over their fifty year career in the orchid business, they built 11 full size green houses and growers would come from all over the country to see their orchid farm.

There are more than 25,000 different varieties of orchids and it can take up to seven years to grow one orchid. They can live for many years and are often left to a relative in a will.

To enhance their business, Sally went to floral design school. In the 1960's Sally was elected as a Connecticut legislative representative for six years. She tells how she would deliver orchids to West Springfield, MA and then drive to Hartford for the 10:00am legislative session.

In the small town of Canterbury, Sally shared, with her husband, the American dream. It started with the vision of one person and became real with a family's hard work.

Canterbury Town Hall Office Hours:
Monday – Wednesday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Thursday: 9:00 AM – 6:30 PM, Friday: CLOSED