(Above: Pretty Pots owner Shannon Gorman, in front of the flower cooler. All photos by Barry Gray.)
There’s a lot of hidden history in Stittsville, sometimes you just have to stop and smell the flowers to find it.
The white building on Stittsville Main Street that’s home to Pretty Pots Flower Shop is a good example. The old frame house dates back until at least 1885 when it was used as a general store. From 1918-1968, it was home to the Royal Bank. The old bank safe has been converted into a flower cooler.
“I love the vault door, it’s one of the things I’m proudest about in the store,” says Shannon Gorman, the owner of Pretty Pots.
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“I’m fascinated with the door. It’s always always something to talk about. A customer comes in and it’s one of the first things they notice. And they always ask: ‘Is this a bank?’”
There’s also a second, nearly identical vault in the basement. Gorman says the building’s old secrets are still being revealed.
“Not too long ago we found an old punch clock that was from that time – really, really old – and we put it on display out in the store. Other than that there’s not a whole lot left from the bank. The floors are all still original and they’re pretty beat up. I kind of like the character of them.”
“There a couple squares from the floor – we’re not sure if there was a money dump in the floor down to the safe – we’ve come up with a few of our theories.”
Gorman has made heritage a theme in her store. She bought a teller window from an old bank in the U.S., and a wooden counter from an artist who was moving out of a log building on Carp Road.
“Older seems to be classier and it’s so strong, so put together. I like that look for the store,” she says.
Gorman bought the shop three years ago this June from former owner Lynn Gillard, who had it for 19 years. There’s been a flower shop at the location for at least a quarter century, says Gorman.
She grew up on Dwyer Hill road, close to Munster. When she was young, her mother owned Richmond Florist and Craft in Richmond where Gorman would spend every day after school. After her mom sold the shop, Gorman went to work at another flower store called Emerald Ivy in Hazeldean Mall.
She took a brief sabbatical from flowers and worked for a while at Nortel, but found her eventually found her way back to the flower business. She took over from Gillard when she decided to retire and sell the store. Gillard still works there part-time.
Gorman has five employees, and says the shop is very much a family operation.
“My husband drives on Saturday and delivers for me. Tina, my designer, her husband delivers part time through the week. Lynn’s husband Fred still helps out delivering. Audette and her husband as well deliver at the holidays. It’s hard to work in such a small place and not be quite close,” she says.
When I stopped by recently on Easter weekend the store was packed with orders ready to be sent out and a steady stream of customers through the door. Gorman says the flower business is a healthy industry but a current challenge is a proliferation of online flower sellers known in the industry as “order gatherers”.
These are online-only companies that pretend to be a florist, but in fact are just a front that sends orders to small flower shops and charge a mark-up to the customer.
“They can take 30% off the top and send it to a florist, who doesn’t know that the customer has spent $80 but the order gatherer has only given the florist $60. It’s become a real problem. They say that they’re local but they’re not,” she says.
“They don’t get the customer full value… The problem is that they’re going to put the actual florists out of business, then they won’t have anyone to do the orders! We really have to fight to be at the top spots on Google and to make sure that we’re well-known and our web site is easy to read and easy to buy from. It’s a challenge.”
Pretty Pots Flower Shop is located at 1528 Stittsville Main Street, across the street from Quitters.