Photos: SHU Flora at the corner of Bank and Fifth offers flowers for all occasions, often with an Asian flare, as well as workshops in flower arranging
Photos: Robyn Best
By Robyn Best
SHU Flora, located at Bank and Fifth, is a florist shop with a welcoming feel. When you walk through the store, you are met with flower arrangements that are full of colour and beautiful to look at. Soft music plays throughout the store, inviting the shopper in.
If you look over, Veronica Mao will be at the register putting more arrangements together.
Mao started the business as a university student out of a rented studio space. “I was doing all the orders online during my first year of university at uOttawa. After I graduated, I felt like it was a good business, so I wanted to have a retail store.”
Mao started the business during COVID-19 and says SHU Flora managed to survive because of the customers. “Most of my customers would purchase flowers as a gift so they were willing to pay more.” Without those loyal customers, the business would not have survived and the store she currently owns may not have happened.
The store opened in early October, and Mao says she’s enjoying the area. “It’s the perfect location, has good traffic, and the people are very nice here.”
While there are many other flower shops, Mao feels as though SHU Flora is unique in some of the services it provides. “People can give me a few words, maybe an emotion, or they want to say something to the gift receiver, and I can make a personal bouquet for it.”
She calls these “keyword arrangements.” They can be based on star signs, a colour or even just a sentence to convey what you want the receiver to know.
SHU Flora makes other arrangements for a variety of occasions, including birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, housewarmings and many more. SHU Flora also offers wedding arrangements – on the second floor of the store, you are met with a display of wedding flowers. “For people who are interested in weddings, we can have meetings and direct what [flowers] you want.”
The store also offers workshops to teach people how to make flower arrangements. “I had a workshop with uOttawa, each class had around 10 students. We did a Halloween pumpkin flower arrangement in a real pumpkin.” She felt that people really enjoyed the workshops, so she incorporated them into the store and says it is a big hit. “People find it very interesting.”
The workshops allow people to learn step by step how to make a flower arrangement. The workshops range from seasonal arrangements, such as Halloween and Christmas, to learning how to make a basic flower basket. It helps to set the store apart from being just another flower store; the interactive element allows people to do more than just shop for flowers, they can make the arrangements themselves.
Culture also plays a big role in the business. “SHU in Chinese is similar to tell, like we tell stories with the flower arrangements . . . it’s also one pronunciation of my Chinese name.”
Mao hopes this helps people become more interested in Chinese culture and thinks this also helps set the store apart. “People can see we have a different culture, that we are a different nation, and maybe [this way] we are unique.”
She has also introduced different flower styles to the store that reflect that culture. “We are doing the new Asian flower style, and we will also have the Chinese New Year, and we will have lots of decorations and people will think ‘oh that’s different.’”
The Asian flower style includes using colour combinations, shapes and flow within the flowers to convoy a meaning or story. She hopes this will help to bring new customers of all demographics into the store.
The store brings a new and innovative perspective to the flower-store business. Paired with Mao’s enthusiasm for the flowers and her clientele, this promises a successful new business in the Glebe.
Robyn Best is a third-year journalism student with a minor in criminology and history at Carleton University.
Pull-quote: “SHU in Chinese is similar to tell, like we tell stories with the flower arrangements … it’s also one pronunciation of my Chinese name.”