Each June, we celebrate Pride together by uplifting the stories and voices of LGBTQ+ individuals and groups, celebrating the culture and experiences of LGBTQ+ communities, and supporting the ongoing advancement of and pursuit for LGBTQ+ civil and human rights. This June, the Seattle Office of Economic Development spotlights Florentino’s Fine Flowers — an LGBTQ+ owned business in Madison Valley.
Tino Umali has long held an affinity for the natural world including flowers, trees, forests, and countless creatures too. During his adolescence, Tino took up gardening. He recalls taking buses to the big box hardware store in SODO, stowing plants in layers in his backpack so his hands were free to carry even more plants for the ride back. Eventually the garden at Tino’s childhood Tudor home in West Seattle grew to contain over 250 different species of flowers, herbs, vegetables, and trees.
“I feel so fortunate to have had such a strong connection with nature during my upbringing.”Tino Umali
After graduating from Garfield High School, Tino landed a job at Bounty—the first florist to set up shop among the retail spaces in the Harbor Steps downtown. He told us the story of providing all the florals for the newly finished Benaroya Hall’s inaugural gala as an 18-year-old.
“Second Avenue was closed off and lined with a 3-sided tent that stretched from street to street. On the back wall of the tent, opposite the symphony hall, were trios of mirrors lined with floral garlands stretching the entire length between Union and University streets. The tent housed dining tables with suspended pomander balls (floral chandeliers) above each table.
Inside, numerous arrangements were scattered throughout, but the highlight was in the main lobby. Flanking the grand staircase were beautiful sculptural pieces several stories tall, flush with cascading florals. I felt like Cinderella, hoping one day I’d get the chance to attend the ball. It felt so invigorating to be part of something so magnificent.”
When Bounty closed, Tino began working at a luxury day spa, where he learned about skin and body treatments, the benefits of herbal teas and aromatherapy, and holistic health. Tina later began working with flowers again as a florist located in the main lobby of one of the tallest office towers downtown.
“I would greet people when they came in to work, chat with them on their coffee break or on their way back from lunch. Over the years I got to know our clients and their families really well; I witnessed their achievements and their struggles and was there whenever they celebrated a landmark event in their lives. Being able to share so many intimate moments with my clients was such a privilege.”
Tino worked at that flower shop for 20 years, until the pandemic began to unfold. During the lockdown, he reflected on what he wanted his future to look like.
“I love working with flowers. I thrive when building community. I’m drawn to beauty, comfort, style and luxury. Having so many passions of mine come together and manifest themselves as Florentino’s Fine Flowers has been truly serendipitous.
At Florentino’s ‘Our greatest joy is helping you turn everyday moments into everlasting memories by bringing you, and those you care about, beauty, wonder and delight through fine flowers, lush plants and much more.”
Tino credits the ability to launch his latest business venture to the support of his mother, family and many loyal friends. Due to having little savings and no collateral, banks were hesitant to lend to Tino, causing him to turn to community for the seed funding support necessary to get his business off the ground.
“The response I have received has been overwhelming. I had over 100 people contribute to my crowdsourced start-up fund which allowed me to get the business off the ground in a month. My extensive network of friends continue to contribute to the growing success of Florentino’s, ordering flowers and picking up gifts for their loved ones and sometimes even themselves. I’m so grateful every time one of my friends thinks to call me.
No matter what is happening in the world, people are always falling in love, forming families, mourning losses, and celebrating life. Much like there is always a need for libations, there is always a need for flowers.”
Opened in 2021 in the midst of the pandemic, Florentino’s Fine Flowers is a thriving LGBTQ+ and Asian-owned local staple. Florentino’s is located at 2812 E Madison St. in the Madison Valley neighborhood of Seattle. You will often find Tino Umali at the shop, creating fresh, handmade floral arrangements and curating unique gifts that will spark delight in the souls of any age. To learn more about Florentino’s Fine Flowers, follow Florentino’s on Instagram (@florentinosseattle ).