Banker invested in flowery second career
FlowersFlowers owner Joanne Leiman has owned the store for more than 13 years and has been in her current location on Davis Street for more than 18 months. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2013 6:04AM
Evanston business owner Joanne Leiman left her job as a banking executive more than a decade ago to follow her dream of opening her own shop, and for the past 13 years she has been brightening spirits with custom-made flower arrangements from her downtown Evanston shop, FlowersFlowers.
The European-style floral shop has been a fixture in the Evanston community since it first opened in its original location in 1978 at Chicago Avenue and Dempster Street.
Leiman took over the shop from its previous owner in 1999, and moved FlowersFlowers to 1110 Davis St. a little more than a year ago.
Although transitioning from a high-pressure career as a project manager in the banking industry to a slower-paced job as a small business owner may not be a common career move, Leiman said she couldn’t be happier living life as an Evanston resident, running a simple business that spreads happiness to the community.
“Back when I was working in Chicago for the bank, it had started to become very large and I began looking for something smaller and more hands-on,” Leiman said. “Now that I have my own business, I absolutely love it and I have no regrets.”
Since taking over the reins, Leiman has maintained the shop’s original European-style appeal by continuing its focus on providing high-quality flowers like the Dutch hydrangea, California dahlias, roses and orchids.
Because she had no prior experience in floral design when she took over as owner, Leiman kept the shop’s two original employees, who taught her a lot of what she needed to know.
“I started learning by just doing it,” Leiman said. “I’ve taken ideas from freelance floral designers and employees to learn different techniques, and you learn lots of different ways of doing things to get the result you want.”
One aspect of doing business in the floral industry that has taken some getting used, Leiman admits, is the downtime during what she calls the off-season, or non-holiday months when demand for flowers decreases.
“Like most businesses, there are always ups and downs and you experience cycles during the year,” Leiman said. “When I first switched over that was something I had to get myself accustomed to because holidays are always much busier.”
Sandwiched in between the Christmas season and Valentine’s Day, January is usually not a month associated with giving flowers, but Leiman said her spring florals like tulips, hyacinths and lilacs are perfect for adding a touch of spring to the home during the bleakest month of the year.
Flowers that don’t start growing in Illinois until the spring are already blooming in the Netherlands, where FlowersFlowers receives most of their shipments from.
Besides the fresh flowers flown in from Europe and custom-made designs that beat the cookie-cutter flower offerings sold in grocery stores, Leiman said she prides her business on personal service.
“There’s really a significant difference in the quality of the flowers when compared to a grocer, and our customers know they get personal service every time and will always leave happy,” Leiman said.
FlowersFlowers is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information call (847) 328-7110 or visit www.flowers-flowers.com.