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ON THE LEVEL WITH NEVILLE – It’s ok to be a little different

ON THE LEVEL WITH NEVILLE – It’s ok to be a little different

When we opened our store, My Mother’s Bloomers, in 1992, it caused a bit of a fuss here in our little city – Halifax, Nova Scotia (look it up!) – of less than a half million people. First, the name itself seemed a little odd and “out there” to many, and we still get folks who giggle when we answer the telephone. I named the store as a tribute to my mother, who would call us her “little blooms” when we, as children, helped her in the garden – not because of some sordid fantasy, although I love to see the expression on a man’s face when I asked if he’s ever been into My Mother’s Bloomers!

We carried a selection of blossoms that weren’t readily available at the time here, like Protea, orchids, gingers, etc. (Remember, this was almost 30 years ago, and even something as simple as a Phalaenopsis orchid plant was a sight to see!) People came from all over to see these wonders, and although I started to feel like we were more of a museum than a florist, after a time folks started buying these exotic and unusual beauties. Mind you, we sent many out to businesses, which garnered a lot of interest. Now, these offerings are as common as hair on a cat’s back both here and in most areas.

During an interview once, I was asked what makes our shop different from others, so I explained it in a way that could be understood by all. I said, “If you want to sit on the couch and watch reruns in your pjs, you might throw some fries and fish sticks in the oven and have them with ketchup. Now, if you are having someone special come for supper, you might set the table, light a candle, and maybe grill some salmon and roast a few spuds, which also is fine. Both are fish and potatoes, and both are acceptable and appropriate for an occasion – but we don’t sell fries and fish sticks at our shop.”

Over the years we’ve evolved, followed trends and have tried to stay up with all that is new and exciting in our world – and we all know what kind of a marathon that can be! We now have to worry about sensitivities, both physical and made up (I mean emotional!); we have to send photos of what we are making before the orders go out; and, of course, we have to magically produce picture-perfect blossoms at a snap, or in most cases, a click (or, worse yet, copy a Pinterest photo!).

Being different doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of a community. Many think of me as being a bit more than off-center, which is something I wear like a first place ribbon at a fair. I remember an old gal, with a smart bun, sensible shoes and conservative two-piece skirt and jacket (dark blue check, of course), who came up to me after a presentation I gave for a charity function and said, “I find you inappropriately amusing!” I thought that was great, and, to be fair, it was an “adult” event and auction, with a lot of booze and money on the line (and, yes, I raised a lot of money!). I’ve climbed to the top span of a bridge and hung by a harness to raise awareness for conquering your fears, I’ve judged dance competitions and I even got dressed (really well!) in drag and did a number on live TV in support of a charity. This all came from me and my flower shop daring to be a little different from the rest.

Who says a flower shop must look a certain way? For that matter, is there a certain type of flower a florist is supposed to carry? When we opened, we got a lot of calls requesting no carnations. So, for fun, I advertised that we didn’t carry carnations at all. (We do now, now that the next generation has grown up!) We got so much business because of this, as the news spread like pee in a pool, especially because we’re in a smaller center. Really, the only ones who questioned our choice were other florists who couldn’t wrap their heads around this craziness. If you’re in a small town or city, don’t think that you have to offer less variety or lower quality than a big-city florist – maybe just not as much variety. People in small towns go to cities, watch TV, read and even check out things online! (I know this because my 97-year-old mum lives in a community of less than 1,000 residents, and she knows the good stuff when she sees it.)

Speaking of my mum, she taught me to embrace individuality. She came to Canada as a WW2 war bride from England, and when she got here, everything was different – no, wait, she was different. I asked her how she fit in, and she said that we are like flowers in a garden: All are different and, together, can make a beautiful bouquet.

Don’t be afraid that you won’t fit in, in your small part of the world. Be kind, be approachable and don’t act like you’re better than the rest (you aren’t!). Be a sunflower in a field of daisies.Share LOVE through the beauty of flowers!

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