Barbara Ann Hollowick stops and smells the roses every day. It’s easy for her to do since she owns B/A Florist — a realization of her long-held dream. “I’ve wanted to own my own shop ever since I was a little girl,” Hollowick explained. Named for her first and middle names, B/A Florist is located on a busy intersection in East Lansing — the corner of Grand River Avenue and Hagadorn Road. But when you step into the two-story 1920s-era home with quilts handcrafted by Hollowick draped on the upstairs banisters, walk on the original wooden floors and peer out the original wooden window frames, you feel like you’re out in the country. Country charm is the feeling that Hollowick wanted for her shop. It’s a vision she’s had ever since she visited a plant store in Tucson, Ariz. years ago. She found it charming and fun and knew it would be something “I’d love to do,” she said. When she first stepped into the home in East Lansing, she had that same feeling. “I knew instantly when I walked in that this was the place.” She bought the home in the summer of 1984, almost 27 years ago. She also knew long before she owned the shop that she wanted to work with flowers because “they are a wonderful product to work with and they bring a smile to everyone’s face,” said Hollowick. Flowers have a way of making us feel good during happy and sad occasions alike, she explained. And B/A Florist carries a wide variety of flowers to fit just the occasion. From weddings to funerals or for everyday occasions, plants and flowers always add the right touch. They’re pretty, and they can be comforting and mean a lot to the recipient. “Sometimes we have customers who come in to buy flowers to ‘get them out of the doghouse,’ ” said Hollowick with a laugh. Regardless of the occasion, she has had many happy customers throughout the years. The shop has won the Lansing Community Newspapers People’s Choice Award for best florist in the Lansing/East Lansing community for several years running.
And Hollowick’s daughter Laura Van Ark has won the People’s Choice Award for best designer. “Laura designs exquisite bridal arrangements,” Hollowick explained. “She’s very creative and regularly exceeds her customers’ expectations.”
As you might expect, the florists at B/A see many customers on the days leading up to Valentine’s Day — the busiest occasion of the year for florists. Mother’s Day comes in a close second. Red roses are the most popular; pink roses the second.Although you might think that men are the primary purchasers of floral gifts, Hollowick said that B/A sees many female customers buying flowers for men. Some come into the shop knowing exactly what they want and others don’t have any idea. Regardless, the florists at B/A can help customers find that perfect arrangement. Hollowick suggests looking on the web site at www.bafloristonline.com for ideas or calling the shop a week or so ahead of time and consulting with the florists. Although the season can be fun, it’s also challenging. “Our volume is great. Everyone wants flowers to give as gifts for Valentine’s Day,” she said. But if they have enough lead time, they can easily satisfy the crowds. In years past, her staff has worked wellpast midnight, but these days, they can more easily handle the volume of orders. Even though they have a limited time to get the work done, there is no shortage of flowers, plants, cards and other gift items throughout the shop. Hollowick knows just how much to stock — keeping good records that go back the 31 years she’s been in business. And after all these years, Hollowick still finds her work fun. She’ll sometimes stand back and watch shoppers looking through a selection of greeting cards to go along with their floral purchases. “When they start laughing, I know they’ve found the right one,” she said. And Hollowick laughs along with them. “Your happiness is our business!” proclaims B/A’s website. And you can tell when talking to Hollowick that she’s happy to share her childhood dream with the greater Lansing and East Lansing community for many years to come.
Ann Cool, MPS, is a freelance writer who lives in Mason with her husband Bob.