This Toronto Floral Shop Is Making the Industry More Sustainable

The newly reopened May Flowers aims to change the way we shop for bouquets
Annie Tran-Shuttin (Photography: Jenna Marie Wakani)

Before the pandemic, May Flowers, then a two-year-old floral business, operated like many of its competitors. It focused on wedding and occasion bouquets, and its shop in Toronto’s west end functioned primarily as a depot to fulfill orders.

This past spring, right after Mother’s Day—one of the busiest days of the year for florists—owner and creative director Annie Tran-Shuttin embarked on a revamp. The entrepreneur, who studied business and psychology in school and taught herself floral artistry through YouTube videos, wanted to create a modern, welcoming space. She envisioned customers shopping for plants, flowers and a curated selection of gift items—such as chocolates, bath products and candles—while enjoying a cappuccino from the in-house café.

“We have a bit of a unique business model in that we don’t use any of those wire services, like Teleflora, that broker orders,” Tran-Shuttin says. By interacting directly with customers in real time, May Flowers is able to offer same-day delivery. “Everything’s designed in-house, and as soon as you order it, we start making it.”

A wall of vases and an assortment of buds in vases at Toronto flower shop May Flowers
Customers who return used vases receive a gift card for their next order (Photography: Jenna Marie Wakani)

Tran-Shuttin funded the renovation—at a cost of $10,000—with her own savings. “We bootstrapped everything,” she says. Friends helped paint walls and install new fixtures, and her husband, who works in construction, put in new shelves and updated the plumbing.

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“I come from a pretty entrepreneurial family,” says Tran-Shuttin. “My mom has a small supplements business, and some of my uncles have businesses as well, so I had some guidance and support. But like any entrepreneur, I also had to learn a few things—like payroll compliance and budgeting—the hard way.”

A cafe inside Toronto flower shop, May Flowers
May Flowers’ in-house café serves lavender- and rose-flavoured lattes (Photography: Jenna Marie Wakani)

Reopened in July, the space is now lined with buckets of fresh flowers and dried bouquets as well as colour-coordinated shelves displaying glass and ceramic vases, which customers are encouraged to return in exchange for a gift card. The “ReVase” program is one aspect of Tran-Shuttin’s bid to make the industry more sustainable. She also sources from local and fair-trade growers and donates a portion of revenue to carbon-removal and reforestation companies to offset emissions from deliveries.

In addition to the renovation, May Flowers launched a new service: With its flower-and-alcohol delivery, you can pair wine, champagne or soju with a hand-tied bouquet. “From a business perspective, we felt diversifying was important,” says Tran-Shuttin. “If Covid taught us anything, it’s that we need to keep growing.”

Truc Nguyen
Truc Nguyen
Truc Nguyen is a communications expert, fashion editor and freelance writer based in Toronto.