Westovers Design Sense Grows

April 15, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — As the fourth generation owner of Mulick Floral, Linsey Tuttle Westover seems to have inherited a flair for floral designing.

She’s also seems to have the same innate ability her parents, grandmother and great grandfather before her had: the ability to keep the family business thriving and maintain its solid reputation.

Westover’s paternal great grandfather, William W. Mulick, founded the business in 1898, establishing his florist shop on Giddings Avenue SE near Iroquois Middle School. William’s daughter, Florence Mulick, succeeded him as owner and later passed the business down to her son, Bill Tuttle, and his wife, Mary Tuttle, Linsey’s parents.

Her mother Mary spent 47 years at the shop — the longest tenure of any family member thus far. She still has a hand in the business today, helping her daughter during all the holidays and on Saturdays occasionally.

As a child, Westover accompanied her parents to work every day, and they gave her plenty of opportunity to express her creativity and develop her own talent.

“That was like playtime for me,” she recalls. “They let me make flower arrangements with artificial flowers. I’m not schooled for this business — any talent I have came from them.”

By high school, Westover’s interest in the family business had waned. The possibility of a career in floral designing wasn’t even on her radar screen.

At age 22 she started rethinking that career option and her enthusiasm for the family business rebounded. That enthusiasm is clearly evident today as she talks about her work and reflects on the career choice she made 22 years ago.

“I love it,” she stressed. “This must have been what I always wanted to do, but I didn’t know it.”

She began working with her mother at the shop full time, and 10 years later, at 32, she officially took over the helm.

Her crew today includes five other designers beside herself, and a number of people work for the shop on-call, as needed.

She loves the business, she said, because it changes all the time.

“Every day is different. It stays fresh because of the change in the seasons and the flowers and the huge variety of jobs we’re able to do. It’s never dull.”

Mulick Floral doesn’t have just one niche, it has many, Westover said. More than 100 years of experience working with customers from individuals to large corporations on a wide range of projects has that kind of affect on a company, she said.

One of Westover’s most challenging jobs to date was a large wedding that involved not only arrangements for the bride, attendants, family members, church and reception hall, but also decorating with flowers a bridal caravan of antique cars. It was a huge job that required a crew of 30 for a full week, Westover recalled.

One of the most out-of-the ordinary requests her shop has received was for a floral spray for a dog’s casket.

In 1975 the family moved the floral shop from its original digs on Giddings Avenue to Ionia Street downtown. Ten years later they relocated to Ottawa Avenue downtown, and a year ago moved into new, 2,600-square-foot headquarters at 600 Monroe Avenue, at the corner of Monroe and Trowbridge NW.

Westover said she never even considered a move to the suburbs.

“We like downtown,” she remarked. “I love all the different people down here; it’s such a mixed bag of interesting people. And I love seeing what’s going on all the time.”

Mulick Floral gets a fair amount of walk-in customers simply because of all the foot traffic downtown, she noted, but about 85 percent of her business is call-in orders from throughout metro Grand Rapids. About 10 percent to 15 percent of flower orders are FTD orders.

Westover normally handles one wedding per weekend. She enjoys doing weddings, as well as funerals, because both are such important milestones for a family. Being asked to create floral arrangements in honor of a family member is somewhat of an honor to her, she explained, because she’s being asked to participate in a significant family event.

Like roses, Westover is a staple in the shop during regular business hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, as well as the half-day the shop is open on Saturday.

She’s often there on Sundays, too, but she said she doesn’t tire of the six-plus workday routine.

In fact she refers to those Sundays as “fun days” because they give her a chance to attend to the special details of her floral arrangements and additional time to plan for those ahead.

She also uses that “downtime” to change the shop’s window and indoor displays, which is one of many aspects of her work she thoroughly enjoys.

Besides obvious passion and natural talent, Westover brings to her work her own design standards.

“I don’t let it go out until I really love it,” she says of the arrangements she designs. “If I could change anything, I would love not to have to do any bookwork at all and just design everyday, all the time.”           

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