Erin Dawson seems to like challenges. She took over ownership of Jade Garden in Vankleek Hill on October 1, 2018 with no retail or flower arranging experience but with a wealth of ideas of where she wants to take the business.
Born on Pattee Road near Hawkesbury, Erin is a former catering and event planner for Fairmont Hotels who has spent the last 15 years or so focussed on her daughter Hannah’s skating career. Hannah is currently part of the next generation, in training for the next two winter Olympic Games.
“I was looking to go back to work, but I also wanted to be able to take time off,” she says.
“I wanted to be my own boss and when the opportunity to buy Jade Garden came up, I just jumped in.”
Although Jade Garden does about 75 per cent of its business in flowers, mostly weddings and funerals, Erin’s lack of experience is compensated for by the fact that she has retained the talented Hannah Black who has a college certificate in floral arrangement, as resident florist.
“I’m in training,” she laughs, as she watches and consults with Hannah on orders.
While flowers are the business bedrock, Erin has already initiated changes, starting with the elaborate display and gifts she has added for Christmas. While streamlining Jade Garden’s inventory of clothing, she has added a wider range of gifts and cards, including mitts and hats from Pook, toys from Jelly Cat and wooden gifts from Cedar Mountain.
“I want this store to be the go-to source for finding the perfect gift, whether you’re a 15-year-old buying something for your mother or searching for a unique gift for a formal wedding,” she claims.
While still finding her feet, Erin is busy exploring new ideas for the shop. She is collaborating with local business Garden Path Homemade Soap for products based on floral scent, which she hopes to introduce in the spring. She’s had discussions with Samme Putzel of Excellent Events about conducting workshops at the Creating Centre on flower-arranging for adults and kids.
“I’d love to do flower crowns for kids in the summer,” she says.
Most of all, she would like to focus more on weddings. Jade Garden already does about 20 weddings a year. She would like to expand both the number and size of the weddings while putting to good use her background in event planning. In fact, she hopes to add wedding planning to the services the shop offers.
“That’s probably a year or so down the road, but it’s definitely an area I want to explore,” she says.
Also in the future may be a move back to Vankleek Hill. Erin currently commutes from the South Shore of Montréal, where her daughter trains, but once Hannah is launched, she would like to move back here.
“I have family in the area and I love the feel and energy of this town,” she claims.
Jade Garden is currently open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week, but Erin is planning extended hours for the Christmas season, including a Black Friday sale on November 23. The shop will also stay open for events such as the Christmas Parade of Lights and the area craft sales.
“I’d like to see what the local traffic wants, regarding hours,” she says.
Jade Garden delivers flowers locally and is a member of Teleflora for out-of-town deliveries. The shop is located at 85 Main Street East in Vankleek Hill and can be reached by phone at (613) 678-6008 or online at [email protected]
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Her short fiction has been published in many Canadian literary magazines.Numerous humorous and non-fiction articles have been published in the Globe & Mail, Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and Toronto Star. She has also published two local histories and is the former Coordinator of the Creative Writing Program at Ryerson University.