Visit Us at http://www.tidysflowers.com/ Toronto's downtown flower shop
Toronto's oldest florist has had some spectacular ups and downs in 130 years
"9/11 changed the floral business completely," says Janet Lye of Tidy's Flowers, her with brother Jim. Kevin Van Passen/The Globe and Mail
When the Twin Towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, the reverberation echoed thousands of kilometres away. Besides the human tragedy, there were economic costs that no one could have foreseen. After the downswings in the financial markets and the travel industry, the ripples kept moving till, almost inexplicably, they nearly toppled the floral business.
"That first Christmas following the attacks, our sales fell by 25 per cent," says Janet Lye of Toronto's Tidy's Flowers, which has been in business since 1877. Ms. Lye is a third-generation florist, who, with her brother, Jim, runs Tidy's out of the company's headquarters and warehouse at 526 Richmond St. E., near Parliament. She was recounting a setback in a successful family business that is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, unfolding through various celebrations in retail outlets at Brookfield Place, Commerce Court and Richmond Street East during the holiday season.
"9/11 changed the floral business completely, because it radically altered the corporate climate," Ms. Lye says. "It had an effect on their discretionary spending. In other words, I think they saw flowers, anything that wasn't business-related, [as] a non-essential."
Tidy's also had to overcome the SARS effect. When the epidemic hit Toronto in April, 2003, hospitals prohibited the delivery of flowers. "A big part of our business was sending flowers to hospitals," Ms. Lye says. "When they stopped letting us in, people created different habits of giving."
But when you've been in business from the horse-and-buggy age to the tech age, you're bound to encounter some growth challenges.
The company's first storefront opened at King and Bay in 1913, operated by the siblings' grandfather, Elliott Lye, who had bought the business from its founder, Stephen Tidy, an English gardener who had been his godfather. Mr. Tidy owned a greenhouse on Ontario Street, where he grew roses for delivery to Rosedale clients. Mr. Lye cemented a relationship with the carriage trade by staking out a presence at the city's financial crossroads. It was the move that established Tidy's as the florist to corporate Canada.
"Everything was there, the banks, the businesses. It's how Tidy's grew," Ms. Lye says.
"It was no longer just a flower shop," his sister continues "but a production centre, with the entire operations, accounting, design, phones, distribution, all under one roof."
"And when there was air freight, you could get tulips from Holland." So after the sixties, the flower business really started to change.
Although the past few years have been unsettled, sales have clawed their way back up to pre-9/11 levels, with revenues expected to exceed $3.6-million by year's end.
Valentine's Day remains the biggest windfall, with more than $140,000 worth of business - or more than 1,000 deliveries - done on Feb. 14 alone.
"People send flowers to express an emotion, to say what they can't say, or are not there to say: Congratulations, or I'm sorry - or I love you," says Ms. Lye.
Tidy's Flowers - Creating beautiful memories since 1877 A Bright Future Built On Solid Roots
A Bright Future Built On Solid Roots
The brother and sister team of Jim and Janet Lye have successfully managed Tidy's Flowers and transformed it into a flower business ready for the 21st Century. The newest Tidy's location opened in 1997 at BCE Place, and boasts a European style shop catering to the corporate elite in downtown Toronto. Presently, Tidy's Flowers keeps a permanent staff of 19, with that number increasing to over 50 during the peak seasons. With the flower business in their blood, Janet and Jim attribute their achievements to their customer driven focus, and the combination of first rate business skills with a passion for flowers. Award winning floral designs, world-wide shipping, a toll-free number, same day service, and now online catalogue shopping are just a few of the reasons Tidy's Flowers is Toronto's principal flower provider.
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