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HomeLifestyleRoadside flower stall survives 100 years

Roadside flower stall survives 100 years

Did you know that the suburb of Terrey Hills is not named after its topography, but after landholders James Terrey and Samuel Hills? In the early 1900s this same Hills family took to picking and selling wildflowers from the area until one day Samuel’s sons Joseph John (JJ) and Edwards Hills had an idea – to properly set up a roadside flower stall and a general store.

Remarkably, that was 100 years ago almost to the day. The business? Hills – the Flower Market.

It’s an incredible feat to survive 100 years in business, so Hills – the Flower Market is calling for your help to not just help collate its history but celebrate it, with a huge family-friendly community event marked for its birthday on Sunday, 26 November (more on that at the end of the story).

The famous flower store and mixed business has supplied floral gifts for some of the most significant moments in people’s lives since almost as long as the suburb has carried its current name… and not just to locals. It grew quickly from a roadside stall to THE place for fresh flowers Australia wide, including the Queen Victoria Building in the city back when it was an open marketplace. Flowers were first delivered to Sydney via horse and cart and later orders were taken from right around the country, fulfilled via Ansett Airways.

Today Hills – the Flower Market is a huge wholesale retailer, flower supplier and grower with a popular family-friendly café Tastebuds on site.

Hills’ Tastebuds in 2023

But how did it get to here?

The market, and indeed the location itself, has a fascinating history dating back to 1881 when Samuel Hills was first granted land on conditional purchase. (of course, the location has a much deeper history as Guringai country, the land
of the Garigal or Caregal people).

By 1888, the population of Terrey Hills was about 60 people and Samuel’s acreage was referred to as ‘Narrabeen Heights’. It commanded “extensive and pretty views of the ocean and Narrabeen Lake… [with] about 100 acres of cleared land, 10 acres of which is under cultivation as an orchard garden, well-watered from a spring and a dam on the property”. (Sydney Morning Herald, April 23, 1888).

In 1907, Samuel’s son, Joseph John (JJ) Melbourne Hills, purchased land on the opposite side of Mona Vale Road from the land his father had owned and established a nursery distributing ferns and wildflowers from the surrounding bushland. In 1923, JJ and his brother Edward bought more land in the area and established a flower nursery and ‘the Pioneer Store’.

This was the birth of the present day “Hills – the Flower Market”.

In 1942, JJ’s son Mel moved onto his father’s estate and expanded the roadside stall. After World War II, Mel’s siblings, their partners, nephews and nieces all got involved at various times in what had become a thriving business enterprise. In 1957 they began fulfilling orders that came in from across the country.

JJ’s son Mel moved onto his father’s estate and expanded the roadside stall.

Around 1969, a young Rudi Caristo (aged 8) began working for Mel Hills, picking violets. At 12, Rudi decided he’d had enough of picking flowers and wanted to work in Mel’s milk bar. At 16 he graduated to selling flowers by the side of the road, which supported him and his family through his university years.

After Mel’s death in 1983, his wife Joan continued to run the business, but a few years later she invited her long-time employee, and passionate flower man, Rudi, to run the flower shop on her behalf. In 1994 Joan decided to sell the business and Rudi, together with his wife Leanne and members of his family became the owners of ‘Hills – the Flower Market’.

Current co-owner Rudi Caristo started working at the business picking violets when he was just eight years old.

After working out of the existing Hills store for five years, Rudi and Leanne completed major renovations and in 1999 a new and expanded premises was opened. 10 years later the Flower Market site was extended to incorporate several complementary businesses including ‘Tastebuds’ restaurant and cafe. Then in 2017, ‘Hills Marketplace’ was born when Ray Balcomb and his family partnered with Rudi and his family to become 50% owners in the extended business precinct.

Together they have a long-term view to honour the rich history of the site while continuing to evolve, ensuring they continue to meet the changing needs of their community. There are plans to further revitalise the property and create an iconic village destination with further food options, though the sale of fresh flowers will continue to remain at the core of the business.


Everyone in the community is invited to a special commemorative event on Sunday, November 26, on site at 287 Mona Vale Road, Terrey Hills. In keeping with the 1920s theme, there will be jazz bands playing music from that era throughout the day, along with food stalls, a petting farm display and more. Of special note is the ‘Hills Memory Lane and Memorabilia Exhibition’ – a fascinating multi-media experience looking back over the last 100 years. At 1.45pm there will be a short ceremony including a film screening to mark the occasion.

For more details and the full program, head to: https://www.hillsturns100.com/s-projects-side-by-side

And for a more detailed account of the history of this iconic local business, or to add your own bit of history to the stack, see: https://www.hillsturns100.com/history

This is a sponsored article in support of local news and sharing quality local business history. Happy 100 Hills!

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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