Mary Beth Flowers has been providing bouquets of floral beauties from her Harford Road shop, Flowers by Flowers, for 10 years now, and she shows no sign of slowing down. On the day I visited her, it was a whirlwind of activity.
At Flowers by Flowers, April brought calls for Administrative Assistants Week, and now it’s Mother’s Day, then prom season, then wedding season, and so on. It will be a few months until she gets to stop and take a breath. Mary Beth, a Type-A entrepreneur with an artistic bent, likes it that way.
She moves around the shop from one quirky display to the next: colorful Gerbera daisies lining the counter, a bistro table with a floral arrangement and balloons and even an antique tub surrounded by distressed tables and more flowers. On the wall behind the register, a topiary figure shares space with a lady decked out in bunny ears for Easter and a photo of Frank Zappa. Mary Beth grew up in Lutherville, so the Zappa fixture is a must.
This shop is about whimsy, not pomp and circumstance.
As she surveys the displays and activity within the shop, she said, “I don’t have children, so this is my child.”
Owning a florist shop was not the original plan. At age 18, Mary Beth approached her family florist for a job to make some money as she studied fine arts at Towson University. The lady in the shop told her she needed more experience. Undeterred, Mary Beth ended up working with another florist in Lutherville during her 20s, and found that it was her calling. She worked her way up to management.
While there, she began dating her husband who just happened to have the last name “Flowers.” Talk about Kismet.
“The truth is, I was a florist before I was a Flowers,” she said.
As she studied at Towson University, her plan was to teach art at a local school, but after she took the job at the floral shop, she found a passion that hasn’t subsided.
It’s not a far stretch from being a teacher to florist, she said. In fact, she explains, her mentor was a nurse, and Mary Beth says she believes the success of both shops involves their ability to tap into the customer's needs—just being empathetic.
“That’s what business is all about,” she said. “We have to be able to figure out what sort of needs a customer has, often at a time when they can’t put into words what they want (such as a funeral),” she said.
It’s about making connections with customers. She’ll be doing the wedding floral arrangements for a lady she’s made arrangements for before. When the customer’s grandfather died, Flowers by Flowers provided custom-made pieces that touched the bride-to-be’s heart, so when it came time for the woman to marry, she remembered the personal service, and knew she wanted Mary Beth to handle the work. Mary Beth says that when people come into the shop, she’ll not only recognize them, but she also remembers what they bought during their last visit.
“I’m going from handling flowers for kids at the prom, then for their weddings,” she said.
"It’s fun to see the continuing relationship. That’s part of being in a neighborhood," the Parkville resident added.
“You see people during the highs and lows of their lives,” she said.
Then there are the people looking for flowers to start a relationship, and those looking for flowers to make up for a misdeed in a relationship.
"It’s not so far from teaching," she said. “You learn to be really diplomatic.”
In the past she’s used her fine arts training to work with kids in the community. She’s taught glass painting to a local boy scout troop, and she’d like to get into doing more hands-on activities with children’s groups during her slow months, traditionally January and August.
When she first came to Parkville, she sold her stained glass creations at local festivals, but soon realized she could combine her love of flowers with a business need in the community. “It’s all about neighbors here,” she says.
, 8110 Harford Rd., 410-661-3399.