Woman's home business blossoms into retail shop

Tina DeOrsey planned her wedding around the peak season for peonies, which tells you something about her passion for flowers.

She even did her own arrangements for the big event. "That was a mistake," DeOrsey concedes. "I was up till 3 a.m."

DeOrsey has been putting her love of flowers into her floral business for eight years. For the first seven, while her children were young, she worked out of her home, building her business through bridal shows, a website and word of mouth.

"I've always liked artsy-type things," the former hairdresser said. "The creativity, being able to express yourself. And the emotion. Flowers just make people happy."

In December, she took the leap into a retail space by buying West Side Flower Cottage.

"It had just gotten to the point where I had too much to do at home," she said.

The business started as West Side Flowers in the early 1900s and was located for most of its history at Douglas and Seneca. Six years ago, longtime owner Carol Hays moved it to a former hobby shed at the end of a tree-lined drive off Tyler Road.

DeOrsey said she drove up to the shop one day and asked Hays if she'd ever thought about selling. After 32 years in the floral business, Hays was thinking just that.

"She's been wonderful," DeOrsey said of Hays, from whom she also inherited several corporate accounts. "She stayed with me the first month."

DeOrsey renamed the shop Westside Flowers by DeOrsey, but at less than 1,000 square feet the building retains the quaintness of a cottage — albeit a crowded one that smells of lilies.

"It's like a dollhouse," DeOrsey said.

DeOrsey also loves the semi-secluded setting, which reminds her of her native Michigan. However, she wondered how much foot traffic she'd see on busy holidays like Valentine's Day. A lot, as it turned out.

"We were just slammed busy," she said. "Which was a wonderful thing."

DeOrsey's specialty is still weddings. In addition to her favorite peonies, dahlias and ranunculus — buttercups — are hot choices for brides currently, she said.

The florist business is competitive, DeOrsey said, and the only way for small shops like hers to survive is to have their own style.

"There's a lot of good talent in this town," she said. As for her style, she said, "I like things very loose. I don't like things that are too contrived. Texture is important. If somebody wants to go up and feel what you've made, that's a good sign."