Teefey Flowers Has Long Tradition in Kansas City
Story and photos by Jill Draper
Springtime at Teefey Flowers means prom time, wedding time, admin time and Mom time.
So it’s time to get busy for manager and head designer Myrna Shepard, who was juggling floral arrangements recently for Administration Professionals Day, prom corsages and funeral arrangements. Coming up fast is Mother’s Day and a series of small, rustic-style weddings—her favorite kind.
And after spending all week in the traditional florist shop at 9716 Holmes Rd., she goes home to Belton and heads out to her yard where spirea, viburnum, lilac and lilies of the valley are blooming in fragrant, delicate clusters.
“You’d think I’d be sick of them by now, but I love my flowers,” she says.
Shepard has been working at the Holmes Road location since it opened 10 years ago. Owner Jim Shannahan built the shop after purchasing the lot from Holmeswood Baptist Church next door. Before that, Teefey Flowers rented space at 79th Street and Troost. It opened in Brookside in 1934. Now it’s a “sister” shop to the more boutique-style Fiddly Fig in Brookside. Shannahan passed away four years ago. His daughter Sheryl White now owns both businesses.
The floral industry has changed a lot, Shepard says. People entertain more informally with fewer table centerpieces, and the recession that began in 2008 hit the shop hard. Plus, there are fewer local and regional sources for plant material. Teefey florists used to buy gladiolus from a nursery in Sarcoxie, Mo., and roses from Rosehill Gardens in Martin City and Klaus Rose Farm in Belton. Now many flowers are imported from South America, New Zealand and Asia. Shepard still purchases some items like ornamental kale and purple allium from local growers, but it’s hard to compete with international prices.
She says about half of her customers specify plants and colors. “The others just say, ‘I have $100—make me something beautiful.’”
For events like weddings and proms, the shop follows the fashion industry to keep up with trends. Many brides are choosing blush and ivory-colored blossoms with gold and other metallic accents. Bouquets are larger and looser with a foraged look, and long ribbon streamers are stylish. Prom colors also are softer this year, but still include glitter and sparkle.
Hospital sales are a big part of Teefey’s business. Shepard makes sure that coolers at the University of Kansas Hospital and Truman Medical Center are kept well-stocked with houseplants and floral arrangements for visitors to purchase. Teefey also has website connections with local funeral homes such as Muehlebach, Charter and Watkins Heritage.
For fun occasions customers sometimes order a “cocktail” of flowers displayed in a large martini glass or a DOG-able arrangement popularized through 1-800 Flowers. Shepard says they get weekly requests for this fluffy puppy made with white carnations. She’s also made floral birthday cakes, Alzheimer’s elephants, Pillsbury doughboys and more.
“People always want to make flowers into something else,” she says. “That’s OK—we need a little challenge once in a while.”
Floral challenges are nothing new for Shepard, who grew up in the business. Her mother was a floral designer and she started accompanying her to work at age 12. Four years later she had her own job at a flower shop in Belton. She lived in several different cities before returning to this area and never had trouble finding work that involved flowers.
She does have advice for anyone thinking of sending flowers to someone with a card that reads “from your secret admirer.”
“Don’t do that! Sign your name!”
Like people throughout the ages, we want flowers to comfort us, mark special occasions or simply because they make us happy. An admirer who can’t be recognized—that’s just frustrating.