For more than 100 years — 114 to be exact — Cassidy’s Flowers in downtown Newmarket has been serving the community with floral arrangements and gifts for all special occasions.
And as much as its longtime business success can be attributed to the top-quality, personalized service provided to its customers, equally significant is the longtime partnership of its owners and their commitment to their community.
Husband and wife owners Henry and Jo Startek, who first met in public school, decided to go into business together when they acquired Cassidy’s Flowers 30 years ago when he retired as a packaging supplier and wholesaler in the floral industry in Toronto.
After all these years, Henry said the business partnership has been smooth, with each of them focusing on their strengths — he acts more as the face of the company, while Jo works more behind the scenes.
“He’s the creative end and I do all the book work,” Jo said.
“It’s very difficult to have two people that want to do the same job, so we had no conflict in what our strengths are… it works,” Henry added.
And Henry is most decidedly passionate about flowers for the joy they can bring to someone’s day.
“They’re (flowers) an emotional thing…I’ve never known a person, no matter what the occasion, not to respond favourably to a gift of flowers. They (the recipient) may be down, they may be tired, there’s always a big smile that comes to their face,” he said. “I like bringing smiles to people’s faces … to see (their) reaction.”
He enjoys the challenge and “the science” of creating unique floral designs for his customers.
“It’s not that you can’t learn on the job … but there’s more to it than just being able to arrange, you need to know how to treat the flowers, how to trim them, how to maintain them, how to hydrate them,” he explained.
Their commitment to quality has earned Cassidy’s Flowers their customers’ enduring loyalty.
“We have a large core of regular customers that support us. We pride ourselves on our workmanship on the fact that we have fresh flowers, good designers and we do have a 100 per cent satisfaction guarantee,” he said.
Fresh flowers are shipped daily to the store from across the globe for the Cassidy’s team of six staff to create the perfect message with specially designed floral arrangements.
Henry added most of the flowers come from Ecuador and Columbia, which has ideal conditions for flower growth.
“The days are longer, the weather is more consistent, the wages are more competitive than they are here,” he explained. “They have very little need for artificial watering because they are right on the equator, so they get 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. Daylight hours are warm, the night hours are cool. It’s perfect.”
Upon delivery, the flowers are kept fresh in two large coolers at the back of the store, one with flowers for clients’ customized arrangements, and one for the flowers in the arrangements sold at the front of the store.
As a member of Florists’ Transworld Delivery (FTD), an international network of flower retailers able to serve customers worldwide, Cassidy’s Flowers delivers messages and gifts to loved ones near, far and everywhere in between.
There are three holidays when Cassidy’s is most busy.
“The three busiest times in a florist’s life will be Christmas … and that’s because it’s the longest season. Mother’s Day is the busiest weekend in a florist’s life … and Valentine’s Day is the single busiest day for a florist,” Henry said.
When the pair is not working at the shop, the Newmarket residents like to spend their time travelling and golfing.
“I love the fact that you’re really playing against yourself. It is also the only sport in which you have an inactive ball,” he said about his passion for the game.
From Italy to Barbados, they have played on courses all over the globe, but Henry said his favourite spot is California for its microclimate. The nearby ocean makes for a unique experience, where you can start the game in warm conditions, and end it in cooler ones due to the ocean breeze and descending hills. He also appreciates the wildlife there.
“In California, the golf courses are deemed protected lands, so you have deer all over the course. They’re on the greens, they’re in the sand traps …. and there’s probably hundreds of them.”
They also play at area public courses to keep on top of their game, he added.
Henry volunteers with the York Business Exchange group, a local not-for-profit business-to-business organization, as the raffle and fundraising coordinator.
Javed Khan, the owner of Aurora-based marketing company EMpression who met the Starteks through the business networking group years ago, said he has always admired them for their passion for their floral work, and also for their commitment to giving back to the community.
“He gives back quite a bit in various community events and donates his time,” he said of Henry.
Khan spoke about the work the Starteks do every year for the annual Pickering College Holiday Home Tour during the holiday season.
“There’s been times when they’ve gone out of their way to make sure the flowers are delivered…you know, you don’t necessarily see that on a regular basis these days,” said Khan.
“He’s (Henry) not the type that’s doing it to get recognized, he’s doing it because he’s got a very strong passion and that’s what I love.”
The store recently relocated to 15 Main St., its fourth location on Main over the past century.
“It’s historic, we’ve always been on the street,” Henry said. “We love the ambiance that is on the street.”
Cassidy’s Flowers has been the recipient of many awards and recognitions within the community, including the Consumer’s Choice Award for Best Florist in York Region for the past 25 years and is one of the top 250 florists on the FTD website.
In 2013, the shop was one of the businesses in Newmarket recognized with a Google eTown award for its use of the internet to develop and grow their businesses.
“We have credentials; we have recognition of good design work, stability. We’re proud of it. We work hard in order to make sure that we give the customer true value and good design of fresh flowers,” he said.
Cassidy’s Flowers is open Monday to Saturday and can be reached at 905-895-8663. You can also check them out online at www.cassidysflowersandgifts.com.