Heather Webster studied floristry in high school. This experience would lead her, more than 10 years and 2 children later, to owning a flower shop in downtown Hillsdale.
Webster took over as the owner of The Blossom Shop from Kathy Newell in November 2019. The store also sits in a new location at 14 N. Howell St, where Kingdom Geekdom used to be located.
Now, two months into the new position, Webster said she has plans to educate the public about flowers and how to best use local florist shops. To accomplish this, she hopes to offer classes as well as build a good relationship with Smith’s Flowers, the other florist in Hillsdale. This all comes back to her love of flowers and helping customers create personalized arrangements.
“It’s something I’ve always had an interest in,” she said. “I’ve always tried to learn as much as I can from different people.”
This learning began her junior year of high school when she went to florist school, which she continued through her senior year. Webster said she enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about what it means to be a florist.
“I got placed in it and decided to stick with it,” she said. “We learned greenhouse, landscaping, and floral design.”
Through the program, Webster said she took her certification test at Michigan State University, where she still holds certification.
Webster eventually got into the floral business when, at the age of 20, she was raising her newborn son, Huckleberry. About two months after he was born, she went to look for jobs to help support the two of them.
“At that time, it was hard to find a job when you’re 20 and have babies,” Webster said. “I went to Michigan Works and filled out a resume. Then, they saw that Kathy was hiring and sent me to her.”
She began working for Newell by cleaning part time at The Blossom Shop. Newell said Webster’s been a good worker at the store and that they’ve always worked well together.
For the next eight years, Webster — who now also has a two-year-old named Parker — worked on and off for the store. She said that four years ago, Newell first started planning her retirement and handing off the business.
Newell continues to work occasionally at the shop, one to two days a week.
But Newell said she hasn’t had to do a lot to transition the ownership to Webster. Because of Webster’s experience in floristry, her innovative ideas, and the fact that she’s “always trying to educate herself,” Newell believes she will be a good fit for running the store.
“She’s young; she’s ready to start from where I started years ago,” Newell said. “It was a great time for me to leave and a great time for her to start in the business. She knows exactly what she’s doing.”
Webster said she loves the customers and relationships that come from Hillsdale’s community. Some of the bigger customers include a couple of doctors’ offices, a dentist’s office, and a few factories, as well as Vested Risk Strategies.
One man, who she knows as Jim, comes in every other week and buys two pink roses to put on his wife’s grave. When he stops in, Webster says they’ll talk for a while.
“I love that something I create can make somebody happy,” she said. “They can rely on me.”
But running a florist’s shop comes with its own set of challenges. One such challenge, she said, is getting people to understand how special it is for people to buy flowers for others.
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, flowers, they die. I don’t want to send flowers.’ But the thing about flowers is they show emotion,” Webster said. “You express emotion through flowers — if it’s happy, if it’s sad.”
Webster remembers the first time she had to deliver flowers to a funeral. When she saw there was someone in the casket, it woke her to the reality of a sad situation. When working with customers to take funeral orders, she said, you feel their sadness.
Ultimately, she wants people to see that sending flowers can be a little thing to do for someone. She said it’s an inexpensive way to brighten another person’s day. One of her goals is to make sending flowers “a cultural thing again,” especially for younger generations.
Her future plans to make younger people more aware about florist options include educating the public through The Blossom Shop. At some point, she wants to have a class at the store to teach people how to arrange flowers themselves. The store also works with high schools to allow students to job shadow there for a day.
When it comes to flowers, asking a florist their favorite is like asking a librarian to choose a favorite book. Webster said she used to like lots of different flowers, but her favorite now is lisianthus.
“I call it ‘a lizzy,’” she said. “They look like a really delicate, beautiful flower.”
But florists, it turns out, can have least favorites. Webster hates carnations.
“I just can’t love them. I’ve tried,” she said. “They break all the time. They do what they want, not what you want.”
Being able to do what she wants when working with flowers is one reason Webster enjoys her new position so much. Webster is, as she puts it, “bull-headed,” and likes doing things her own way.
“But the default to that is I’m responsible, and if it doesn’t work my way, then that’s not good showmanship,” she said. “I’m just getting used to being a full-fledged grown up. I’m only 29, so I’m there, but I’m responsible for a business. I’m somebody’s boss.”