If she had to choose, Mary Wesley would say Alstroemeria is her favorite flower, with sunflowers following close behind.
But when it comes down to it, all flowers are her favorite flower, she said. It's what she's dedicated the last 36 years to — her floral shop on the corner of 23rd and Cherry.
"I love flowers," said Wesley. "I was always playing around with sticks and stones and flowers at my home. I think this is something God has given me, and I got to give it back to the community."
Flowers Just 4-U, which opened in 1984, is one of the only Black-owned flower shops in the region, said Wesley.
"Here I am more than 30 years down the road still loving it and going strong, making people happy," she said.
When she was still employed at Boeing, Wesley said she had been planning her retirement years before she could even qualify for early retirement. Wesley went back to school, studied flower design and horticulture, graduated in 1984 and opened her shop the same year.
The last three decades have seen ups and downs, including Wesley selling her shop, taking it back, and then in 2018, relocating. Moving took a toll on their finances, and Wesley said they were behind on rent and bills, which resulted in an eviction notice.
"I had made up my mind; I was going to close up the store," she said. "The community heard about it, and they stepped forward."
A GoFundMe was set up with a goal of $10,000 — more than $26,000 was raised within a week.
"They did bail me out, and I was very thankful. I love them more than they think I do," Wesley said. "I love them all."
Flowers Just 4-U was able to stay open — until March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit and Washington's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order forced Wesley to close the doors for two months.
"A small business cannot afford to close their doors for one day, more than six or eight weeks? That's a long time," she said. "We were completely closed because of the virus. We lost a lot there. But so far, we have managed to keep our heads above water."
When the pandemic hit, lists of small businesses to support were popping up left and right — people wanted to help in any way they could, whether it was purchasing a gift card or ordering takeout. The same thing happened with the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, and Wesley said she saw the impact firsthand.
"I think that has helped - the Black Lives Matter - and I do see more people coming in from other races and cultures that we didn't see before," she said. "Some of them mention that, 'The reason I'm here is because we heard about the Black-owned businesses and we want to support you.'"
That support means the world to Wesley because she wants to see Flowers Just 4-U continue to blossom and serve the community the best way she knows how — with flowers. And as much as this woman loves her flowers, there may be something she loves more.
"My customers? Oh, they are my pride and joy," she said.
Flowers Just 4-U is open for curbside service, delivery within a certain distance of Seattle and shipping locally/nationally. The shop is located at 701 23rd Avenue, Seattle, WA, and can be reached at 206-324-1440.
Looking to support other diverse local businesses like Flowers Just 4 U? Seattle Refined is proud to collaborate with Intentionalist, an online guide that makes it easier for you to find and connect with diverse local businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities.