“When I was working, younger, I kept a pad by my nightstand.” Flowers Just 4 U owner Mary Wesley pauses to adjust a newspaper on her shop counter, miming writing in a notebook. “What would I like to do after retirement? And so I’d write down, ‘I want to have a boutique shop.’ I thought for a time I wanted to be a photographer, I wrote that down…I had a whole list of things that I thought I wanted to do. And way down the list, it said ‘flowers.'”
She continues, “I wanted to know, ‘Why would I really want to sell flowers?’ Well, number one, I love it, I’m creative. And the main thing is because the community needs a black florist. There is none! I go, ‘Hey, I’m going to be that flower shop.’ And so I did.”
“And so I did” is a refrain of Mary’s as she discusses her 37 years of running Flowers Just 4 U in the Central District. She worked as a manager at Boeing in the early 80’s and at the same time wanted to go to school to learn new skills, like photography, so she did. She decided she wanted to open her own flower shop, so she went back to school again. “I took small business, flower design. Because I’ve always been creative, but I wanted to be a professional at it. I wanted to prepare myself, to be good at it. So I did. So here I am,” she gestures from behind her shop counter.
While some things have changed at Flowers Just 4 U over its nearly four decades in business—the location, for one thing, as the shop recently moved to a new home at 701 23rd Avenue—the business still feels refreshingly old school in the middle of a rapidly-growing Seattle. Mary can name customers that have been buying flowers from her for over 20 years, including the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, Seattle Unity Church and a customer Mary identifies as “Mrs. Flowers” who has been visiting the shop since it opened.
Flowers Just 4 U had to move from its previous location on 23rd and Jackson when the land was bought by a neighboring non-profit. While moving was difficult, Mary is a fan of the new location. “It’s a very good corner. It’s a very alive corner, there’s a lot of traffic…[and] foot traffic is good. They come in, buy their little bouquets of flowers, and the kids come and get their little single flowers for mom, or what have you.”
The business has just three employees in addition to Mary, plus two delivery drivers. While they’re a small operation, they provide flowers for big events like graduation ceremonies and same-day delivery services. Mary says a good portion of her business comes from the three wire services she belongs to.
Mary started her business because she “saw there was a need in the community,” and she attributes her long-term success to the support she’s gotten from that community. “I have weekly people, that want flowers for their homes for the weekend, when company’s coming, or a birthday, or they just want some beautiful flowers for their homes.” Mary smiles as she talks about her regulars. “I like those kind. They gotta educate the other ones that just come once a month.”
Asked for advice for aspiring small business owners, Mary says to have patience and to prepare yourself for the challenge: “You have to have the knowledge of how to run a business.” If you’re wondering where to get that knowledge of how to run a business: the Office of Economic Development can help connect entrepreneurs with business education, free consulting and more.
“My dad always said don’t set little goals, they too easy to reach. Set high ones and work toward it,” Mary says. “I did that. So here I am, 30 years later running my own flower shop.”
Become one of Flowers Just 4 U’s new regulars by visiting their website, or give them a call at (206) 324-1440. You can get connected with OED’s services for small businesses by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.