by Ronnie Estoque
Mary Wesley, also recognized by those in the community as “Miss Mary,” is the owner of one of the only Black-owned flower shops in the region, Flowers Just 4-U. The idea to open her store originated from a thought she once jotted in a notepad kept by her nightstand.
“I planned it ten years before it took hold, it was just a projection that I had set a goal for myself because I didn’t want to retire and just sit down,” Wesley said regarding the 1984 opening of her business. “That something was giving back to the community — the community was in desperate need of a flower shop. We’ve never had one before.”
Wesley had migrated from Washington, D.C. to Seattle in 1956 and eventually established her own career at Boeing as part of management before fully retiring in 1997. Since then, she has dedicated her time and energy to her store, which has experienced its own challenges over the past few years due to the rapid development and gentrification in the Central District. Despite those barriers, she is proud to still be in business today through the support of community members.
First, Flowers Just 4-U survived a City shutdown. “I feel very proud because when the City decided to upgrade their water line, they shut me down for 18 months when I was at 23rd and Jackson. That really set me way back,” Wesley said in regards to the 2015 decision by the City of Seattle to overhaul the street corridor.
Then, in 2018, Wesley was displaced from her store on 23rd and Jackson due to development of Jackson Heights. But she was able to relocate to 23rd and Cherry where the store currently resides. A GoFundMe campaign set up by Africatown Seattle in December of 2019 raised over $26,000 to help Wesley keep her business afloat amidst mounting rent and utilities. A mockup of the $26,000 donation rests on the wall of her store in the form of a giant check.
Now, Wesley hopes that the community can continue to support her business amidst a pandemic that is taking a toll on many small business owners in the area.
“I love my customers — they look for me and I got to be here,” Wesley said. “I see the same people come back and they are happy with our product … they make me know I did the right things by starting this floral line business.”
Currently, the Central Area Collaborative (CAC) is underwriting 20% off gift certificates to CD businesses, including Flowers Just 4-U.
“Some businesses such as Flowers 4-U were already participating in the gift card marketplace and only need to be made aware of the promotion,” Leon Garnett, member of CAC’s Leadership Committee said. “The community can support these businesses by taking advantage of the partnership with the Intentionalist to purchase the discounted gift [certificate] and continuing to patronize the Central District businesses.”
“The community can help me a lot by honoring birthdays and anniversaries … where flowers should be displayed.” Wesley said. “I want to see more unity — that’s what we need.”
Community members interested in having their flowers delivered from Miss Mary can call (206)-324-1440 to place an order or order from her store’s website. Flowers Just 4-U is located at 701 23rd Avenue and is open Monday-Saturday 9:30 a.m to 5:00 p.m.
Ronnie Estoque is a Seattle-based storyteller and aspiring documentarian. He is driven to uplift marginalized voices in the South Seattle community through his writing, photography, and videography. You can keep up with his work by following his Twitter and Instagram.
Featured photo by Ronnie Estoque.
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