THUNDER BAY -- For Brittany Cordeiro, a part-time student job turned into a passionate interest and a reason to start her own business.
Cordeiro had been studying psychology and worked at a flower shop in town, but she came to the realization that her student job was more interesting than what she was majoring in. “I really liked the creative aspect of it, I had always been a creative kind of person, but I didn’t know how to translate that into a job,” she says.
Once out of school, she looked at options for opening her own shop. She put out a Kijiji ad looking for retail space, connected with a landlord who had recently purchased a property on Bay Street and was looking for new tenants, and everything came together surprisingly smoothly.
“I was expecting the worst, and expecting it to be really hard,” she recalls. The space on Bay Street (between Bay Lock and Security and the Sewing Shop) is her “ideal location” and she opened Thuja in June 2015.
Cordeiro’s aesthetic is more natural and free than most other florists, because she stays away from floral foam, the green rigid sponge florists use to make arrangements. (“It’s a lot of plastic that goes into the landfills.”) Her arrangements are usually done simply in a vase, so the flowers aren’t rigidly fixed. She also likes to use Canadian-grown flowers whenever available, because the product is fresher.
Alstroemeria (lily of the Incas,) mums, snapdragons, lilies and freesia are some of the flowers she can get Canadian-grown year-round. Her favourite flowers, peonies, grow in Canada but have a short season, so sometimes they come from as far away as New Zealand.
Cordeiro also sells many plants and terrariums with succulents and air plants (Tillandsia; a genus of evergreen, perennial flowering plants that do not root in soil but cling to whatever surface they can find and absorb moisture from the air.)
She hosts workshops where people can build their own terrarium with a bubble-shaped glass bowl, three plants and a variety of decorative pebbles and mosses. The cost is $40 plus tax, which is the same as buying one ready-made.
She likes to bring in weird and unusual plants that people may not have seen before, such as living rocks, which look like small rocks and come from Africa, or roses of Jericho, which look like dried up balls of cedar leaves. “It’s dormant now, and comes back alive with water. They spread open and turn a little green, and once their water is gone, they close back up into a ball. In the wild, they’re almost like a tumbleweed and they roll around until they find a puddle. They go long periods without water. There’s a lot of mythology surrounding them; religious connotations, spiritual connotations,” she explains.
So far, business has been great, Cordeiro says. “I’ve been surprised at how lovely people have been, and how responsive customers are.” She hopes to continue bringing in more Canadian plants as well as the “weird” ones that catch her eye, and is always on the lookout for new workshop ideas, so that customers can share the tactile experience of creating fun and beautiful objects.