After ten years in the floral industry, it was on a whim that Tara Gillespie decided to open her own flower shop. There was no plan, she said, but “I was ready to venture out on my own.” That was mid-October of last year and within weeks, she said she left her job in a floral shop, started a business in her basement, and was soon immersed in the holiday season. That basement happens to be on Violet Street in West View, a home formerly owned by her grandparents that she and her husband, Austin Bennati, now own. The entrepreneur’s dream, Violet Street Florist, was underway.
Tara hired floral designer Jessica Seefeld, a friend, and former co-worker. Delaware Valley Floral Group in Cranberry Township became her supplier. The creative artwork for her signage was found online. “Jessica and I were laying on the couch in our jammies, scrolling through fonts,” she laughed. It all came together quickly. With the help of social media, word of mouth and past connections, business for Thanksgiving and Christmas was brisk.
Knowing she wanted a storefront, Tara signed a lease to open the shop in Avalon, at 512 California Ave. The place needed lots of work but what better date for a florist’s grand opening than Valentine’s Day weekend. “I ordered flowers a month in advance and I cried the whole day,” she said. She ordered
thousands of dollars worth of fresh flowers. She didn’t know if customers would come or if she was getting in over her head. But orders were so plentiful, with design work extending back to her home’s basement, that she couldn’t see the floor. “Some how, we sold everything but one arrangement and one wrap bouquet,” she said of her debut. The leftover arrangement was dropped off to the Avalon Borough building and the bouquet was handed off to a man on California Avenue walking his dog. He looked like a champ when he got home.
Tara first started working at Flowerama, located at the time on McKnight Road in Ross Township, a decade ago. She had no experience but quickly learned to create unique floral arrangements, which is Violet Street Florist’s trademark. “There are no basic designs here,” she said. Everything is one of a kind and
fresh. She makes several runs to her supplier each week. Roses from Equador, sweetpea and orchids from Japan, and tulips from Holland are among the offerings. “I really like high-end flowers. We’re kind of flower snobs,” she said of herself and Jessica. Her favorite is the Cymbidium Orchid, known for its long-lasting blooms. She sometimes uses
them for height in a display or incorporates just the blooms in another.
Tara and Austin were married last March as the pandemic was altering our lives. She made the flower arrangements for her own special day, although the ceremony and festivities were significantly scaled back. She is accustomed to large wedding orders and is hopeful those days will soon return. “Someday we hope to be busy enough to hire a driver,” she said. Until then, she or Jessica will make deliveries.
At holiday time or on an exceptionally rainy, gloomy day, Tara plans to give away an arrangement or bouquet to brighten someone’s day.
Hours of operation are:
Sunday – closed
Monday – by appointment only, for event planning
Tuesday through Friday – 10:00am to 6:00pm
Saturday – 10:00am to 5:00pm