Julie Drennen has been getting out of the house a lot more since since late March.
Drennen’s new routine stems from relocating her business, Flowers by Julie, to a commercial building in Fairport Harbor Village from the basement of her home.
A full-service florist, Flowers by Julie began serving customers from a building at 900 High St. on March 29. With the move, Drennen has planted her business along the main street of the village’s commercial district.
Previously, she operated Flowers by Julie in the basement of her house on New Street since she started the enterprise in November 2019.
Drennen said the space that she took over in the rented building provides more room for her to work and for customers to browse.
“At my grand opening (on April 3), I actually had like 10 people at a time … and I wasn’t cramped. I could move around.”
For a little more than a year after launching Flowers by Julie, Drennen received and filled many orders for flowers. However, most of Drennen’s sales resulted from phone or online orders, rather than walk-in customers.
She had set a long-term goal of eventually moving into a traditional commercial location. But Drennen decided to expedite that search after an experience in late 2020.
One day in early December, Drennen said three people came off the street and into her shop within a short stretch of time. Two of the visitors were shopping together for floral products. But the third person was an inspector from the Fairport Harbor Village Zoning Department.
Drennen said the zoning official reminded her that the house was zoned residential. While she was permitted to operate an in-home business, she wasn’t supposed to have walk-in customers, the inspector said.
Although two of the people who had come into the shop were sent by another patron — who had called ahead — in the eyes of the zoning official, they were still walk-in customers, Drennen said.
Drennen showed the inspector records which indicated most of her sales resulted from phone or Internet orders, and reiterated that walk-in customers were rarities. But the zoning official said he would still need to check with the mayor and Village Council about the situation.
The next step Drennen took was posting an announcement on her Facebook page, informing customers that Flowers by Julie would allow no more walk-in shopping; and product pickups would take place at curbside only. She also began an intensive search for buildings that she could rent on High Street.
“My husband is like, ‘We need to figure it out. Let’s do this, if we have to move, we’ve got to move,’ ” Drennen said.
As it turned out, Drennen’s husband provided her with a tip about a tattoo store that was getting ready to move.
In the meantime, the zoning official called Drennen back and said Flowers by Julie was permitted to continue operating in her house, but couldn’t permit customers to walk in.
A short time later, though, Drennen’s husband informed her that the tattoo shop officially had left the building on High Street.
She called the owner to get an inside look at the building but initially wasn’t impressed.
“My heart sunk,” Drennen said. “I was like OK, I can’t do this. It’s going to cost too much to get this fixed, and with rent, we’re not going to be able to do this.”
However, her mind was changed by encouraging words from her brother-in-law, who toured the building with her.
“He looked at me and said, ‘You’ve got this,’ ” she said.
After learning that the rent was more affordable than she anticipated, Drennen signed a lease and got to work on making the atmosphere conducive for a florist.
“We scrubbed the floors and wiped everything down before we even painted,” Drennen said.
She also improved the inside lighting for the shop and inherited a commercial-grade cooler. With the cooler, Drennen is better able to display products and have additional cash-and-carry items ready for walk-in customers.
Drennen also was happy to report that more customers have been dropping by the High Street location.
“People are starting to come around now that I’m out of the basement,” she said. “People that I knew now can see what I’ve been selling and I can now display work ahead of time.”
Flowers by Julie continues to do a brisk business, fulfilling customers’ floral needs for holidays, and events such as weddings, proms and funerals, Drennen said.
Individual items that have been selling well at the shop recently include hanging flower baskets, which are supplied by Secor’s Nursery in Perry Township; live house plants; lucky bamboo and candy mugs. Flowers by Julie also sells candles produced by The Cleveland Candle Co.
While running a home-based business has its advantages, Drennen said it doesn’t compare to the satisfaction she gets out of operating her new, stand-alone location.
“I’m actually excited to get up and not just have to venture downstairs,” she said. “I actually have someplace to go. I guess you can say this is my happy place.”