Hesitant to use a tired clich�, Carol Wagner tries to explain why she recently closed her longtime flower shop, The Garden Florist to teach floral design classes at Sequim High School.
"What the heck," she said. "I'll just say it. I wanted to take time to smell the roses," the blonde-haired woman joked.
The mother of two grown children, Wagner admits to dealing with a bit of "empty nest syndrome" after her youngest son left for college two years ago. But that void is filled by three - soon to be four - classrooms full of energetic, eager-to-learn teenagers.
"I enjoy teenagers, as odd as that is," she said. "My house was always the hub-hub and I miss that."
Wagner teaches two floral design classes and one cooking course at the high school. She will take on a second cooking class next year.
"I decided three years ago when I was offered this job doing floral design classes that I might close the shop," she said. "This year, I decided it was time to choose. I couldn't do both jobs anymore."
So, after 14 years as a business owner, Wagner sold the building and closed The Garden Florist on Bell Street, the same location where she worked when she was only 15 years old. "I was hoping somebody would take over the floral shop but that didn't happen," she said.
"My customers were absolutely awesome and I will miss them. I closed up so fast and I apologize for that, but I am so happy right now," Wagner assured the community. "I enjoy keeping my hands in the flowers and I missed that being a business owner and doing the grunt work."
Now, "Mrs. Wagner," as her students call her, is sharing her expertise and enthusiasm with the younger generations. She is honest about the floral industry and what it's like being a business owner. "I tell my students that it's a lot of hard work and that they have to be willing to work every holiday and want to give back to the community to be successful in floral design," she said. "The kids learn the business of floral. They learn to design, price and work at a retail shop. It's a great learning experience."
Wagner is an avid supporter of vocational high school courses for students or teenagers who want to attend a trade school rather than an academic-based four-year university. Three of her students have graduated from high school and gone on to work in flower shops.
What she's looking forward to the most since closing the shop is the holidays.
"For the first time in 40 years, I will have a Mother's Day and a Valentine's Day. I can't wait," Wagner said.
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
Business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Phone 360-683-3311, or toll free at 800-829-5810. FAX 360-683-6670.
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