After more than 80 years as a flower and gift shop, Vale Edge Florist is branching out on its own.
Eriko Flasco recently took over as owner of the downtown Ravenna flower shop, where she had worked on and off for about five years. She said she plans to put up a wall between the Hallmark store and the florist business, and create a separate entrance off the parking lot of the South Chestnut Street building. The project is expected to be done some time this spring.
Charles and Betty Lim, who bought the business in 2004 from the Gray family, will continue to own the Hallmark store. The Gray family founded the business in 1928 and owned it for more than 75 years before the Lims took over the business, and Franklin Skip Gray still owns the building.
Flasco brings four employees to her side of the business -- Terry Hugill, Monica Smith, Herm Minor and Marcia Fortman. Fortman, who has been at the store through three owners, is a "certified FTD Master Designer," and Flasco also is trained in floral design.
One of the perks of ownership, she said, is that every day is Bring your Pets to Work Day. The menagerie includes dogs Quigley, an 8-year-old terrier mix, and George, a 5 1/2 year old Brussels Griffon. Both are rescue dogs. Bird Gracie also comes to work with her owner, and is able to answer the phone.
An Akron resident, Flasco said she believes it's cruel to leave her dogs at home alone for more than 10 hours a day. The animals stay in the back unless they are invited to the customer waiting area, but adds, "You wouldn't believe how many customers love to see the dogs."
The store sells the majority of its flowers to people attending funerals, and also to people looking for flowers for holidays and special occasions. Roses already have been ordered in preparation for Valentine's Day.
While younger customers like to order through the store's website, www.valeedgeflorist.com, seniors prefer to order over the phone or in person. Flasco encourages people to deal directly with the store, rather than a third party, who they call "flower gatherers." Though those orders still make their way to Vale Edge, there's a secret some don't realize.
"People don't know that if they go through a third party, they have to get paid," she said. "People will order a $100 arrangement, but by the time it gets to us, it's not a $100 arrangement."
She said the flower business is a tough one in this economy, because people see it as the first place to cut when times are tough. And she said there's a lot of work that people don't realize.
"It's not just arranging flowers," she said. "There's a lot of side work and cleaning. You cannot have fresh flowers in a dirty cooler."
She said she has a strict rule that cut flowers are to be discarded after five days, and suspects her customers keep coming back because they know what they buy will last longer.
Flasco took classes in flower arranging when her son, Jim Mitchell, and daughter, Samantha Mitchell, were just starting school. Jim now lives in North Canton and helps his mother with the business, and Samantha is going to school in Florida.
She acknowledged that nobody becomes a florist for the money, but said there's an added benefit that money can't buy.
"I love what I do," she said. "So many people drag themselves to work because they don't love what they do."
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