Longtime Island flower shop blooms under new owners

The aroma of fresh flowers greets customers at Vashon’s longstanding flower shop Blooms & Things, but customers might detect something new in the air as well.

Longtime Islanders Carol and Chuck Ahlfors bought the shop earlier this month, intending to add their own touches while also keeping it much as it has been in recent years.

“I’m so excited, I am awake at 5 in the morning,” Carol said.

Carol, 64, has worked at the store for the past two years as the manager and head designer, a position that topped off her career in the floral industry, which included her own floral design studio, 16 years as a representative of floral design products and frequent work on Rose Parade floats.

“I like flowers and people,” Carol said. “They seem to go together.”

Former owners James Freebourn and Javier Sotelo bought the store in 2006, adding antiques and giftware to the store’s floral offerings. Freebourn died last September, and Sotelo, who has a busy sheetrocking business, wanted to pass the store to someone who would maintain its character — Freebourn’s wish, Carol said.

When Sotelo first suggested that she and her husband buy the store, she said she didn’t take it seriously. But when she finally brought it up with her husband, Chuck was enthusiastic. That enthusiasm took hold, and they bought the shop on June 5.

“One of the main reasons we did it is because it is fun,” Chuck said.

Fun is a theme that creeps into the conversation frequently when the couple talks about the store.

Chuck, 66, is a retired medical researcher and is now the store’s flower delivery man — the best job at the store, he says, because of the joy flowers bring people when he shows up on their doorstep.

After years of busy careers and parenthood, Chuck also said it is good to work closely with his wife.

“What’s really delightful is to see how much my wife enjoys this. … It is nice to work together at this stage of our lives,” he said.

Carol noted that they want the store to be as “green” as possible. During Vashon’s growing season, they will work with several Island growers and gardeners and will tap Carol’s garden as well, which currently boasts 30 feet of sweet peas. They are looking into buying an electric vehicle for deliveries, and they are offering a free rose to people who bring in their water tubes.

As the two settle in to their ownership role, Carol is clear about her priorities.

“We are a flower shop first,” she said.

To that end, she plans to offer courses in floral design and host an in-store lavender festival in July. She has also stocked supplies for people to design their own creations at home. Flower delivery downtown is free now, and the Ahlfors have reduced the delivery fee Island-wide. For people who want longer lasting flowers and fuss-free indoor plants, Blooms offers high-end silk flower arrangements and artificial green plants. The couple plan to network with other Island businesses and become even more deeply rooted in this community, Carol said.

The Ahlfors are joined in this venture by their staff, Mallory Griffith, who tends to the technical aspects of running the store, and designer Sandy Crawford, a lifelong Islander. A high school student will join them soon.

The Ahlfors note that their purchase of the store is returning it to its roots: Husband and wife Myrtle and Larry Wall first opened the store in 1972, then called The Wallflower, selling it 22 years later. Myrtle used to design fabulous window displays, Carol recalled, and she plans to follow in her footsteps, making full use of her high-profile storefront on Vashon’s busiest corner. She is already making big plans for the Strawberry Festival, she noted.

The store has come full circle since its first days, the Ahlfors said. It began as a mom and pop store and is one again. They are glad to be part of that circle.

Blooms & Things

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Phone: 463-3682

Web site: www.vashonblooms.com

Address: 17600 Vashon Hwy. S.W.