No more going down to the basement cooler to fetch fresh flowers. No more digging through rented storage units to find candle holders and other supplies for centerpieces.
Parisa Damavandi has relocated her Pink Petals Florist business from her Akron home to a storefront. The move brings a boost and adds a splash of color to a stretch along West Market Street that has been hit by vacancies.
“I would never have thought that you could just open a store without being as established as I am already,” Damavandi said.
Damavandi, 40, who operated out of her house for 16 years, is growing her business in tough times for local flower shops across the country.
Nationwide, the number of retail florist establishments declined by more than a third from 2000 to 2010, according to the latest available census figures. In 2000, there were nearly 25,000 shops; a decade later, there were slightly more than 16,000
Damavandi opened her shop last fall at 1960 W. Market St., in a rented storefront that had been vacant for more than a year, next to Larry’s Main Entrance bar/restaurant.
The store’s walls, formerly white, are now hot pink and lime. A granite-topped counter serves as a “flower bar,” where customers can watch designers at work.
“A lot of florists hide the work in the back,” Damavandi said. “This way, everyone can see the work getting done.”
Damavandi said she is well aware of the challenges.
Many supermarket and convenience stores offer fresh flowers. Consumers also can choose from a wide selection of gifts that can be purchased via the Internet.
Damavandi said she’s thriving because she created a niche — specializing in weddings, parties and corporate events.
“Some of my brides, they now have children getting flowers for dances,” she said.
Finding a niche can be a key to success, said Jennifer Sparks, vice president of marketing for the Society of American Florists in Alexandria, Va.
“Local florists still really own [weddings and parties],” Sparks said. “You need a lot of expertise, not just from a design standpoint, but all of the logistics that you need to know... [That’s] not necessarily something that you can order online.”
The storefront means Pink Petals now can cater to walk-in customers, though weddings and parties will remain the bulk of the business.
She said she was running out of space in her basement, where employee Gina Milan would design arrangements.
“You literally couldn’t turn around” without bumping into someone, Damavandi said. Milan chimed in: “It was torture.”
Now, the two fetch flowers from a large walk-in cooler that takes up a big chunk of the store’s floor space. It was built to her specifications by a company in Cleveland and replaces a much smaller walk-in cooler a pizza shop had used.
Damavandi, who took classes in design at the University of Akron, began her floral journey at a shop in Norton. She then worked at Richard’s Florist in West Akron for four years before setting up her own business in her home at age 24.
Her parents both operated retail businesses. Her father, Nasser Damavandi, owned the onetime Collector’s Showcase gift shop in Summit Mall. Her mother, Cassie Damavandi, opened Cassie’s Collectibles, also in the mall.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.