Joy to the World
by Dee Fisher
Photo courtesy of Monkeyshine Portraits

As a child, Kelly always loved pleasing other people. “We lived in the country outside Ossian, Indiana when I was very little,” he says. “When we moved into town, I decided to introduce our family to all the neighbors.

“So, I picked my mother’s flowers and made bouquets to give to each family who lived around us. All was going well until one of the mothers called to thank my mother for the lovely flowers!

“Mother put an end to my efforts, then. But, I think it shows that my desire to make others happy with my designs began at a very early age.”

Kelly’s parents were friends with a florist in Ossian, and, as a young boy, Kelly was often allowed to sit in the workshop and watch the florist at work. It didn’t take long for him to identify his passion for designing and creating. Today, he is co-owner of The Secret Garden Floral & Gifts in Convoy, Ohio.

Jason, The Secret Garden’s other co-owner, is a people person. “One of my former employers, a florist from Fort Wayne, always told people that I could sell ice cubes to an Eskimo,” he says, laughing. “I’ve been in retail most of my life, and I really love helping people find whatever it is they’re looking for, be it an object or a service.”

Several years ago, Jason and Kelly found themselves working for a florist in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who has since gone out of business. Kelly had matriculated through the Indianapolis Floral Design School and had been working for some years in various florist shops.

Jason was working the “business end” of the same florist shop, selling for the owner and taking care of the books and product ordering, especially the FTD orders. The two got along well, and before long, they began discussing the possibility of working together in their own place.

“Kelly had had a shop of his own many years before,” says Jason, “and I always wanted to see him in his own shop again, doing his own designs. However, he really hates numbers! That’s where I came in.”

After moving to Convoy in 2002, the two bided their time for about 5 years, working in different local shops. Finally, in February 2008, the week before Valentine’s Day, The Secret Garden Floral and Gifts opened for business in Convoy.

“We really picked a great time to open a florist’s shop,” Kelly remembers. “We worked like crazy that first week, getting Valentine’s flowers and gifts out to customers!”

But, The Secret Garden boasts much more than just flowers. Both Kelly and Jason work at choosing inventory for the shop. When they find a company whose products they feel will work in their store, they will keep at least one of each product the company sells.

Currently, The Secret Garden stocks any number of memorial items, including concrete memory statuary and memorial wind chimes, and throws of several sizes and designs. There is a separate room for families to peruse the collection in relative privacy, and where they can also meet with Kelly to personalize memorial flowers.

Distressed wooden plaques with meaningful sayings about love, marriage, and family are big sellers at the moment. These come in many different sizes and designs.

Brides can also find flowers for their special day by meeting directly with Kelly and Jason. In a side room, they have set up a table where they meet with brides to plan for their wedding bouquets and decorations.

Besides floral arrangements and gifts, The Secret Garden also stocks various types of prepared pastries and fruit products. Grabill Amish Pastries delivers fresh baked goods, candies, and other sweets weekly. “We can also take special orders for pies for the holiday season,” adds Jason.

Other local vendors include Messmaker Baker jams and jellies, Baked Nostalgia noodles (created by Vickie Huebner), and local honey, both raw and refined. For those who like to do it themselves, New Hope Mills supplies pancake and muffin mixes of various flavors, including apple cinnamon and pumpkin spice.

One look at the many thank-you cards from pleased customers confirms that The Secret Garden has made a home for itself in Convoy and in Van Wert County at large. “We really work at being a part of the community, both here in Convoy, throughout the county, and in other communities close by, like Van Wert, Monroeville (Indiana), and Willshire,” says Kelly.

“We supply five to six churches in the area with altar flowers every Sunday. Besides that, we deliver to homes and other places throughout the county and just across the state line in Indiana, like Decatur and Monroe.

“In fact, we’ve just been named a Premier FTD florist, an honor given by FTD based on sales and positive feedback from customers!” Checking with FTD revealed that this designation is one of the highest a florist from a rural community can receive. And, a quick check of their Facebook page reveals the overwhelmingly positive reviews they receive from a satisfied community.

“I love being able to personalize gifts and arrangements for our customers,” says Kelly. “It’s one of the benefits to living in a rural area.

“Being located in a small town lets us know people and their interests. We feel like we’re able to enter each customer’s life and help them express themselves through our arrangements.”

Giving to the community is an important part of the business. “We’ve held bake sales for the Children’s Miracle Network and given special floral classes for the Thomas Edison Adult Workshop,” Kelly says. “We want to be a part of daily life here.”

With residential quarters above the shop, the entrepreneurial partners live and breathe their business. “Both of us love meeting people and making them smile when they leave the shop,” Kelly says.

“Christmas time is special, and we’ll have several different specials for our loyal customers. Our hope is to meet more and more of our community and give as much joy to them as they give to us!”

The Secret Garden Floral & Gifts
109 W. Tully Street
Convoy, OH 45832
(419) 749-4181

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