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King florists flourish with online pandemic pivot (13 photos)

With weddings and special events cancelled, businesses like Mid Valley Gardens in King Township have had to come up with creative ways to keep their business going

It's been a rough year for many local businesses, especially those in the floral industry. 

With cancelled weddings and special events, businesses like Mid Valley Gardens in King Township have had to come up with creative ways to keep their business going. 

"It (COVID) destroyed us in a sense, as 85 per cent of our business was weddings," explained Dave Hanemaayer, co-owner of the shop. 

This year, they had 265 weddings booked, but ended up with only 65 going on as planned, and on a smaller scale. 

The family-owned business is currently managed by Teresa Aukema, her parents Kim and Dave Hanemaayer and grandfather Bert Hanemaayer. Her grandmother, Agnes Hanemaayer, was also part of the business, designing flowers, until her retirement four years ago. Aukema does all the floral design work, along with mother Kim.  

Mid Valley Gardens is considered a wholesale florist. They pick up their flowers from Mississauga at The Ontario Flower Growers' Association.  Bert Hanemaayer is one of the founders of the association. It was Bert's father, Aukema's great-grandfather, Arend Hanemaayer, who opened Mid Valley Gardens in 1952. 

Aukema is the oldest of five children, but the only sibling who decided to carry on with the family floral business. With her creative flair and eye for detail, Aukema took over the wedding department in 2014, and since then have seen an uptick in wedding clientele. 

"We went from doing about 50 to 60 weddings a year to 260 or more a year," she shared. 

Before going into wholesale, Mid Valley Gardens was a rose farm with 60,000 acres. 

"Once free trade started happening, it started to slowly take away (from the business)," explained her father. "It kind of changed the market." 

"We are constantly with our business having to change up all the time," explained Aukema, especially with COVID.  

Aukema has been finding new ways to draw in clientele, including outdoor in-person workshops and take-home DIY kits. 

"A lot of people don't feel comfortable coming out anywhere, but they feel comfortable at home watching a video," she said. 

Her husband is a videographer so she had him film her putting the arrangements together which she sent to the customers to follow along.

"I think we'll keep that up," she said about the possibility of continuing the at-home workshops, post-pandemic. 

"It does seem to be drawing in new customers, which is amazing," her father Dave said. 

Many of their customers like to come into the shop and pick out items on their own for a customized arrangement. This year, Aukema has been experimenting with burlap, greenery, pinecones, glitter sticks, and ribbon for their Christmas urns. 

With more people sticking around the home for holidays, they have seen an increased interest in floral decor, especially around the holidays. For Thanksgiving, Aukema posted a photo of her pumpkin arrangement on Facebook which resulted in 300 orders. 

"We've never been this busy before," said Aukema about the holiday rush.  

With less time dedicated to weddings, Aukema is also able to focus on building the company's online presence.

"With weddings, I was so busy, I could barely upload to Facebook even once a week," she explained. 

Aukema and her family live in separate homes next to one another on the property. 

Aukema had her first child just last December and says it has been a challenge balancing motherhood and the business but is thankful to have her family close by to help. 

"It has its perks," said Dave about working together with family. 

Mid Valley Gardens is located at 230 Hanemaayer Lane, just off Davis Road, south of Canal Road in King Township.

To learn more, visit their website here.  


Natasha Philpott

About the Author: Natasha Philpott

Natasha is BradfordToday's Community Editor. She graduated from the Media Studies program at The University of Guelph-Humber. She lives in Bradford with her husband, two boys and two cats
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