Barbara's back and this time, she's going high-tech with a new florist business that she is bringing back to Lehigh Acres after a few years' absence.
Barbara Gerow, owner of Our Creations Florist was located in the Phebus Building on Lee Boulevard, across from a pest control business. Before that, she was located at Victoria Station on Homestead Road, in the same building in which Jim Phebus owned a travel agent business. He also owned the building. When he sold it, he moved to 411 Lee Blvd., and Barbara, who had worked for Phebus, followed him to his new location. The building is now empty on Lee Blvd. It had been filled a few weeks up the November election with a place where Obama supporters met.
Holding up a high-tech cell phone, an iPhone, Gerow is growing the business and with the help of a high-tech attractive and interactive website, she says she wants her former customers to know she is in business again, only this time, no actual storefront.
High-tech florist owner Barbara Gerow holds a smart phone, which customers can now use to order flowers from her new online site. They can also order flowers from a personal computer or tablets.
"My storefront is my website: FloristLehighAcresFlorida.com and people can see the flowers I can arrange for them and deliver or even take them to a point in downtown Lehigh, convenient for everyone, where they can be picked up.
"Vicki Culver, owner of one of the largest gift stores in Southwest Florida, has agreed for people to pick up their arrangements there if they choose for me to deliver them," said Gerow, who has been in the floral business for most of the years of her life, having started out as a teenager.
"What I have is a virtual store and it is working very well. Customers can select anything they see or let me know through the Internet site what they want or any special accommodations," she said.
"It is impossible to show everything. But those who are interested can explain what they want and I will call them. I do weddings, anniversaries and other special ceremonies. Not only do I provide the flowers, but I can help the people make plans for the event," Gerow said.
"I am able to have flowers delivered to me on a daily basis, so providing what people want is not a problem," she said.
Gerow is hoping that her prior business experience and the fact that she owned a flower shop and knew hundreds of customers will prove that she can return to the business in a high-tech way, a way of the future, as she put it.
She left the floral business in Lehigh and closed down her shop in 2009 due to health reasons and the fact, too, that the economy was failing fast, meaning people didn't have the money to spend on flowers. She was not the only person to shut down a florist in Lehigh during that time period. Today, there are only two florists with some type of a storefront in Lehigh.
Now in the "Virtual World," she says she is working alone. But she has the support of her husband and grown children, who all pitch in even with delivering floral arrangements.
"I really appreciate it that Vicki who owns Home For All The Holidays gift shop has agreed to be a pick up point for some of her customers who prefer to go and get their own arrangements prepared by Gerow.
Since she shut down her shop in Lehigh, Gerow said she has remained in the floral industry by working for a place in Cape Coral. She has been working in the floral business since 1987 and said that a of customers in Lehigh had asked her to go back into business here.
And now that the economy is improving, Gerow sees it as a golden opportunity to return and be the first virtual florist in Lehigh.
She worked for Jim Phebus, who himself was a master at floral arrangements,. He sold the business to Gerow and they have remained friends ever since. He opened a travel agency for a few years but the Internet is probably to blame for a lack of customers and today only a few travel agencies even exist in the county. Phebus is retired but volunteers every week at the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce.
"She'll do well," he said. "She was always a great floral arranger and her products were beautiful."
Gerow says imagination is the new trend for her and others in the returning floral market. In January, she provided all the floral arrangements for the chamber's annual gala. At the end of the evening, whoever had a business card under their chairs were able to take the arrangement home.
She is gearing up, preparing for photos of new arrangements for the next two holidays - Easter and Mother's Day. Customers can easily purchase their flowers online without any hustle and do not have to travel somewhere to buy the flowers if they are to be sent to a family member or friend.
"While Easter is a good day to send flowers, Mother's Day is the biggest day of the year," Gerow said.
Mike Erwin of Lehigh set up her web pages and she said she is very happy with his work.
"I also chose him because he is local and like a lot of other people, I believe in doing business with Lehigh people," she said.
If you want to call her, the number is 239-565-3670 and it's listed on her virtual florist site. While on the site, you can type out any message to describe what you are thinking and list any questions and she will call you back. You can use your credit cards or your bank's debit cards on the site. She is also planning, she said, to make it easy for a customer to use their credit and debit cards by swiping them into her cell phone.