If you ask high school sweethearts Ted and Janice Tate if they ever expected to be running a flower shop together after 38 years of marriage, Janice answers for her husband.
“He knew when he married me that he was marrying into the family business,” says Janice, 59, who lives in Pinecrest near the florist shop her parents first opened almost 50 years ago.
Hirni’s Wayside Gardens Florist, at 9950 SW 57 Ave., originally was an outdoor flower stand started by William and Evelyn Hirni on Ludlam Road. The roadside stand evolved into the full-grown flower shop it is today back in 1966, where it has been servicing Pinecrest and neighboring residents ever since.
As little girls, Janice, her twin sister Jeanie, 59, and older sister Marilyn, 65, would come to the shop everyday after school to help their parents grow flowers, water plants and take care of customers. Younger brother, Billy, 53, also helped, but the girls were the most devoted. Their dedication to the family business blossomed through young adulthood, even when the sisters held careers as nurses at South Miami Hospital.
When their mother died in 1981, the Hirni girls began to run the shop full-time with help from their father, who then was a retired police officer from Miami-Dade County. By this time, the family operation had stopped growing flowers onsite and started ordering their best sellers — including roses, lillies, snap dragons, hydrangeas and orchid plants — from mostly South American vendors.
For Janice, already a mother of two girls and one boy, the transition from nursing to managing a florist shop full time actually took some pressure off.
“It was much easier and more beneficial to raise my kids,” she said. “At the hospital, I couldn’t leave to go on a field trip or attend one of my kids’ programs. At the flower shop, I could. Looking back, I can’t imagine having done anything different with my life.”
Husband Ted, also a Miami-Dade police officer, helped out at the shop when he was off duty. He retired in 2006 and has helped Janice full-time ever since. Her sisters have since retired from the business, leaving Janice the remaining Hirni to run the family operation. Her father died in 2004.
But Janice has a backup plan to keep the family business going. She recently hired her daughter-in-law, Kimberly Tate, to help and learn the business.
“My intention is for her to hopefully like it and carry it on, keep it in the family,” she said. “She seems to love it and has a nice way with people.”
Kimberly, 31, said she’s having a great time learning the business and looks forward to the possibility of running it full time one day with her daughters, ages 4 and 18 months.
“It’s a happy place to work at, very neighborly,” she said. “I have a background in sales and merchandising and I’m a people pleaser like my mother-in-law. Keeping the Hirni family business going was an opportunity I couldn’t resist.”
Fran Berrin, 60, who lives in Pinecrest, has been a customer at Hirni’s Wayside Gardens Florist for at least 30 years. She says Janice and the staff are like her extended family, always pleasant, upbeat and creative with their arrangements.
“They’ve seen me through so many special occasions, from birthdays to Bar Mitzvahs,” Berrin said. “What keeps me coming back is the personal touch and sincere interest they put in everything they do. That human connection, that willingness to go the extra mile and add that perfect finishing touch. That’s what’s made me a customer for life.”
Hirni’s Wayside Gardens Florist is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 305-661-6266 or go to www.hirnisflorist.com.