Written by Domenica Farishian Friday, 24 January 2014 00:00
From watching a budding romance bloom into a lifelong commitment, to helping mark all of life’s major milestones, Tracy Rhee, co-owner of Westbury Floral Designs says, these are the moments that give her the greatest pleasure.
“We love being a part of our customers’ lives,” says Rhee, who, with co-owner Lia Di Angelo-Allan, has watched many life events unfold from inside the floral shop they have owned together since May 2012.
The entrepreneurs met in 2010 when they both started working at Westbury Floral Designs for the previous owner. Di Angelo-Allan had worked for about 12 years in the industry, while Rhee just left her career as a special education teacher in pursuit of something more creative. “I wanted a change. I left my job and walked into the shop and asked if they could teach me everything they knew,” explains Rhee. Happily for Rhee, they agreed.
She spent that summer training with no pay to learn all about floral arrangements and running the business. By the end of the summer, showing her natural creative talents, Rhee was hired. Over the next two years Rhee and Di Angelo-Allan helped run the shop with the previous owner Linda Frederick, until Frederick decided to retire after 25 years as owner. She approached the pair asking if they’d be interested in buying the store. “We bought it immediately,” Rhee proudly states.
By then she had fallen in love with the business. It wasn’t just floral arranging that she loved, which dates back to her days as a little girl growing up in New Jersey when Rhee would help out her grandmother in the garden; it was much more. As Rhee explains, “It’s the way we can participate in some of the most important events in people’s lives.”
One customer in particular comes to her mind. About a year and a half ago a man came in looking for flowers to impress his first date. He automatically went in search of roses, but Rhee steered him toward another flower, an orchid. The customer agreed and was happy to report back that as it turned out the orchid was his date’s favorite flower. The romance continued to blossom with frequent orchids purchased, until this past Christmas. “They just got engaged,” she happily proclaims. “It is wonderful to be a part of our
customers’ lives this way.”
Of course it isn’t all “romance and flowers” at the Floral Shop. They supply arrangements for a host of events such as bat and bar Mitvah’s, sweet sixteens, weddings and holiday parties. They also supply flowers to restaurants and businesses, including some hotels.
They also arrange an array of food baskets including fruit assortments, wine and cheese and the very popular “junk food” basket.
During a customer’s time of grief and mourning, the shop also does arrangements for funerals as well as the cemetery located across the street. Many repeat customers call from all around the country. “I just got off the phone with a man who lives in Hawaii now and
still calls to order flowers for his wife’s plot,” states Rhee.
Speaking of phone calls, one call Rhee received recently revealed the deep roots the Westbury Floral shop truly has. A woman called out of the blue saying she just randomly decided to call her home phone number growing up. They began talking and Rhee discovered that her floral shop was once home to a greenhouse over 75 years ago, one of Westbury’s first floral shops.
“I guess there was always meant to be a floral shop here,” Rhee laughs.
Westbury Floral Designs is at 53 Post Avenue in Westbury. To find out more visit www.westburyflorist.com or call 516-333-0830.