Last weekend, Flowers Just 4 U was served a 14-day eviction notice. Located in the Central District on the corner of 23rd and Cherry, the florist was asked to pay past-due rent and utilities that totaled around six thousand dollars, or close its doors for good. After getting the word out, with help from WJJ Consulting and Africatown Media, owner Mary Wesley generated enough support to save her business.
“Can you believe this? That’s God,” Wesley beamed when asked about the overwhelming support she has received. “That is how well they love me. Donations and walk-ins, you name it. Whatever they can do to get here to keep me on this corner, they did it, from their hearts.”
At the time of this article, Flowers Just 4 U’s fundraiser campaign has received over twice the goal amount in only a few days. Said to be the only Black-owned florist in the Pacific Northwest, Wesley has done business in the Central District for more than 35 years. Now in her late 70s, Wesley has had to dip into her retirement savings to help the business.
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A few factors contributed to the store’s precarious situation. Her longstanding account with Black-owned Southwest Mortuary came to an end when Bonney-Watson bought the company. At first promising to keep her account, Bonney-Watson informed Wesley a few months later that they would no longer be doing business with her after all. “[They] took that big contract away from me,” she says.
Flowers Just 4 U was originally based out of a storefront on 23rd and Jackson, its home for decades. When the City of Seattle overhauled the street corridor in 2015, it negatively impacted Wesley’s business for a year and a half. Though the city gave her $25,000, she estimated a loss of $60,000.
Flowers Just 4 U was eventually displaced by the Jackson Heights affordable housing development, and moved to its current location across from Garfield High School. Though Wesley is glad to remain in the Central District, she also says business has taken a turn for the worse. “It’s been bad. I mean, super bad. There is no parking so it’s not really a corner,” she notes.
Fundraising for Flowers Just 4 U is a start. Walter Jones of WJJ Consulting, who also help Africatown and commercial tenants in the Liberty Bank Building says, “We’re making sure the plan is long term.”
The City of Seattle is also trying to do more to help businesses like Flowers Just 4 U. Its new Legacy Business program is starting small with a call for nominations for restaurants, shops, and more with fewer than 50 employees and in risk of being displaced.
Wesley, meanwhile, would eventually like to move back into the Jackson Heights building on 23rd and Jackson. For now, however, she appreciates the continued support of the community. This coming Sunday the 22nd, Flowers Just 4 U will have a volunteer cleaning party from 2 to 4 PM. “The support right now that I need is the organization to get my shop turned around and [make it] more attractive. [I need] New customers, more customers, and more standing accounts,” Wesley said.
When asked what she loves most about being a florist, Wesley answers, “When it comes to flowers I just love them. Just the harmony and the peace of flowers. It doesn’t matter what I do, vase arrangements, doesn’t matter, corsages, weddings. Just anything. It’s in my blood. God gave me that gift, and that’s me.”
You can support Flowers Just 4 U by volunteering at the cleaning party this coming Sunday from 2-4pm, by donating, and, of course, by buying flowers from the store.
Flowers Just 4 U is located at 701 23rd Ave. You can learn more at seattleflowersjust4u.net.