Irving Park Teen opens flower shop that’s an ode to its Guatemalan culture
OLD IRVING PARK — Growing up in Guatemala, Mariana Ariza often picked flowers from her grandmother’s garden and arranged bouquets. Now she is making a business out of it.
Ariza, 19, moved to Chicago six years ago and attended Schurz High School. Earlier this year, she decided to open her own flower shop. Passing an empty storefront along Irving Park Road was a sign of trying her luck as a young business owner, she said.
After two months of renovations and the help of her family, Ariza opened Romance Flowers and Details, 4264 W. Irving Park Road, last week. She’s seen quite a few clients already and made Halloween-themed bouquets, she said.
“Sometimes I still don’t believe it, that this is really my shop,” she said. “It’s very moving that it happened. God helped me a lot in this journey because it was not easy.
Ariza previously worked at a neighborhood flower shop, but wanted to use her knowledge of flowers and become her own boss, she said.
With the help of her parents, Ariza runs the boutique and creates custom flower arrangements and bouquets starting at $15. Romance also sells chocolate and flower bouquets as well as party tickets and accessories such as vases, decorated boxes, greeting cards, candles and decorated mugs made by the owner.
Paintings Ariza has created of her native land, nature and flowers line some of the store’s walls. She also painted a large mural of blue flowers on one of the walls.
The storefront was once a tech repair shop, and it needed a lot of work when Ariza took it over in July, she said.
Ariza’s father and uncle, who run a painting business, helped completely revamp the space with new tiles, countertops, paint and wallpaper. It wasn’t easy, but Ariza is grateful for the support of her family and a close friend who provided financial support, she said.
The business also represents a new chapter for Ariza and her family, who live a few blocks away, she said.
After experiencing death and facing economic and health hardships, devoting time, money and energy to Romance symbolizes a new — and aromatic — beginning, she said.
“My brother passed away a few months ago, and it was hard on all of us, especially my dad,” she said. “It was a way for us to cope and look for a fresh start.”
Ariza called her mother, Zonia Ariza, her “right-wing wife.” Zonia Ariza helps clean up the space, goes shopping with her daughter, and helps with decorating, but she doesn’t touch the flowers.
“I am very happy for her because she has always dreamed of having her own flower shop since the age of 12,” Zonia Ariza said in Spanish.
Mariana Ariza hopes to expand her offering to include clothing, handbags, bags, candles and artwork from her home country and other Latin American countries, she said.
As Halloween — Ariza’s favorite holiday for decorating — approaches, she plans to sell more customizable orange and black bouquets, and she’ll be handing out candy to customers and children on October 31.
Ariza isn’t ruling out college in the future, but she wants to focus on her new business and bring more vitality to Old Irving Park, she said.
“I have no words for the neighbor’s support; I was welcomed with open arms,” she said.
Romance Flowers and Details is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
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