Celebrating Pride Monthangischreiber
June is Pride Month and to celebrate we are highlighting Northwoods business founder, Bruce Walentowski of Crandon. Bruce discovered his passion for the floral industry during his teenage years. While working at the local grocery store, Bruce met a lady that operated a floral business out of her home. Shortly after meeting her, Bruce discovered his passion for flowers and began helping her fill floral arrangement orders. That experience led Bruce to open his own small floral shop, Flowers from the Heart in Crandon 36 years ago. Eleven years later Bruce purchased the Ben Franklin building in downtown Crandon, securing a larger location that would allow Flowers from The Heart to expand three-fold. Today this thriving floral shop in Crandon also offers tuxedo rental, home décor, ladies’ clothing, jewelry, and furniture.
In 2019 Bruce and shop manager, Josh Jameson applied for grants to help expand Flowers from the Heart to a second location, Flowers from the heart on Fifth in Antigo. Angie Close, Executive Director of Langlade County Economic Development assisted in securing two Downtown Business Grants, one Main Street Bounce Back Grant, and one We Are All In Grant to help open the shop in Antigo. The first Downtown Business Grant secured helped Antigo’s Flowers from the heart on Fifth open in 2019, unfortunately, the COVID pandemic began in early 2020. The exceptional service and refreshingly cheerful staff allowed Flowers from the heart on Fifth to prosper even amidst the pandemic. As a result, it was quickly determined by Bruce and Josh that the Antigo location needed more room. An additional Downtown Grant and a Bounce Back Grant were secured to help purchase a larger non-occupied building that was adjacent to the current location. Due to the long-lasting effects of the pandemic, the We’re All In Grant was also utilized; which allowed for additional support to help cover costs of business interruption resulting from the pandemic. Going forward, Josh plans to look into additional grants to help grow and expand LGBTQ businesses.
Business is going well for Flowers from the Heart and Flowers from the heart on Fifth and nowadays Bruce looks forward to retirement and hopes to hunt and travel more with his partner. Succession planning has shop manager, Josh Jameson looking to potentially become the new owner of both locations. When asked if being gay had affected either business Josh stated, “People come to our shop no matter that we’re gay; we’ve had no issues being a gay-owned business.” He went on to say, “It’s really great to be part of a community and not have to worry. These two Northwoods communities have shown us that if you support the community the community will support you back.”