Growing a business during the pandemic

Florist learned life lessons from her parents

March 16, 2022 | People | Volume 26 Issue 6
Maria H. Klassen | Special to Canadian Mennonite
St. Catharines, Ont.
A floral arrangement designed by Lydia Rekrut. (Photo by Lydia Rekrut)

It was at the end of February 2020 that Lydia Rekrut shook hands with the owner of a floral shop in Thorold, Ont., and bought the business, which included the stock and equipment. March was spent relocating to another building and doing renovations. The official opening was to be April 1, 2020.

And then the pandemic hit, and with COVID-19 came the lockdown. Construction workers were not able to meet their timelines, workers were limited to five in the construction area at a time, materials were backlogged, costs doubled and then tripled, and the lockdown continued.

Weddings were cancelled. Rekrut couldn’t advertise a business that wasn’t open. There were no people in the store. And she couldn’t get her name out to the public.

Some problems were not pandemic related. The apartment above the store flooded the shop. The new fridge malfunctioned twice, and all the flowers had to be thrown out. On a hot summer’s day the air conditioner didn’t work, and the flowers wilted.

The daycare her son attended was closed, and her parents, Renate and Randy Klaassen, were stuck in Uruguay, and it took them weeks to return to Canada.

The grand opening scheduled for May 1 also did not happen.

While all this was happening, she was taking a few orders and made some arrangements at home.

How did Rekrut come to own this business?

Her interest in floral design started a decade before, when she was at a cousin’s wedding and ended up arranging the bridal bouquet, as well as other centrepieces. She thoroughly enjoyed this experience and a new passion was born.

She attended Niagara College in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and graduated with a certificate in floral design. She started as a bucket scrubber and worked in various floral shops in Niagara, eventually working her way up to creating floral arrangements.

Rekrut had already started doing floral arrangements for weddings and events from her home, and she needed to buy a larger fridge. A floral shop came up for sale as the owners were retiring after 32 years. With the encouragement of her husband, Rekrut took the leap of faith and shook hands on that day in February, not knowing what was ahead of her.

The name of the floral shop also changed with the purchase. Rekrut had grown up with a creek running through the backyard of her parents’ home, and she wanted to incorporate those childhood memories into the name of her new venture: Creekview Floral Company.

How did she get through that first year?

“I learned many lessons watching my parents as a child growing up,” she says.

Both her parents are pastors—Randy at St. Catharines United Mennonite Church and Renate at Niagara United Mennonite Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake—and she saw them dealing with people in key moments of their lives, conducting baptisms, weddings and funerals.

With God’s help, her parents handled these key moments with care, prayer, consideration, and empathy, she says. They were professional and compassionate in the stressed times of other people’s lives.

And Rekrut wanted to bring this same care and compassion to the lives of the customers she was dealing with, whether at a wedding or a funeral.

Now, as she celebrates the second anniversary of that handshake, she has experienced a very steady growth in her business.

During the first year, many arrangements were ordered for private homes, people wanting to add colour to their homes and their life at a time when social activities were limited.

Although the walk-in business is still slow, she is fully booked for this year with wedding floral arrangements and is taking bookings for 2023. Funeral arrangements also keep her busy.

The life lessons her parents modelled for her, she says, have helped her through a very tough two years. 

A floral arrangement designed by Lydia Rekrut. (Photo by Lydia Rekrut)

Lydia Rekrut sets up a floral arrangement. (Photo courtesy of Creekview Floral archives)

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