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Growing desire to branch out

A foot of new snow notwithstanding, Christine Aberle is hoping her business will once again take root in the community.

Just a week ago Aberle re-opened The Window Box, a flower shop in downtown Elmira. She purchased it in late December having had just two days to think about operating a new business.

After some renovations and a new coat of paint, The Window Box opened its doors again on Jan. 28.

“I was hoping to be open mid-January, but there was a lot to do. It took a lot longer than I expected,” said Aberle. “When you renovate everything takes longer than you anticipate.”

From the outside, the store is barely noticeable, buried in the winter surrounding it. Whenever the door is opened, however, the cozy shop – awash in pastels and trimmed in white – releases a spring day onto the street. The bright colours Aberle chose are quite a departure from the formerly gray walls, but are reminiscent of her own kitchen.

READY TO BLOOM Christine Aberle displays some lilies, just one variety of cut flower available at the re-opened Window Box in downtown Elmira. She aims to make the store a one-stop shop for customer’s flower needs.

“I love this colour,” she said touching the green walls. “It works well as a background for all other colours and I thought it was something the flowers would look good in.”

For 10 years prior to buying The Window Box, Aberle worked with her husband Stephen, a fourth generation farmer. She spent her mornings growing and harvesting vegetables and her afternoons delivering them. Last summer she was ready for a break.

“We took the summer off and I kind of thought I’d like to do something else,” she mused. “I studied interior design and I put that on hold to work with the farm, but I wanted to get back into something creative again.”

She said she’s always wanted her own store and couldn’t resist the timing of the situation. When asked why she chose flowers, she glances at the large case to the left of the register and pauses to consider the roses, gerber daises, and lilies that beckon enticingly from inside.

“I always grew my own flowers and I had lots and lots of perennials to work with, so I always had fresh flowers,” she said. She’s never arranged flowers professionally before, but has done it for friends and family in her spare time. “There’s a few techniques I need to pick up on, but I have lots of books and I’ve been studying up like crazy.”  Aberle is considering taking courses in arranging as well.

Currently, items for The Window Box primarily comes from two places, the first is a flower market in Mississauga. The other flowers are chosen from delivery trucks that come to the store twice a week.

“Right now I’m going with what I know is popular and things that will look good together,” said Aberle. Among the shop’s current offerings are small potted plants, flowers sold individually by the stem and custom bouquets hand-made for each order.

“Eventually I’d like to get other things in the store that relate, like rose thorn removers and different tools of the trade.” Aberle is eager to pass on her love of flower arranging. “Other people do it just for a hobby and they enjoy it, so I’d like to be their source for different things.”

As the shop acquires more stock, customers will be able to buy potted annuals as well as flowers from local growers.

“I would really like to support the local area and get those in here,” she has already begun talking to local growers. “It’s hard this time of year, but I think some local stuff would be a very good thing.”

Long hours, mixed with volunteer work and the planning of a family wedding being held at the farm this summer, mean Aberle is occupied nearly every hour of the day. She is the store’s sole employee for the time being, except for Friday nights when she teaches at a local learn-to-skate program.

During those evenings, Stephen minds the register for her. Aberle isn’t afraid of piling on more work and hopes to soon be taking orders for wedding flower arrangements.

“I did a couple as a sideline for family and friends and I’d like to get into that,” Aberle hesitantly considers venturing into that part of the business this summer. “They are big jobs, so I’m not jumping on that right away, but I would like to eventually get there.”

A new bud, Aberle’s shop is just beginning to blossom, but she is excited about making The Window Box a fixture in the community again.

“I’ve always wanted to do this, so the fact that it’s happened and it’s here and I get to be creative everyday, which is lots of fun for me. I love it.”

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