Leary's Flowers is gearing up for Valentine's Day this weekend, only a month-and-a-half after celebrating the Gay Street business's first year under new management.

Tina Cressman took over as owner on Jan. 1, 2003 and sales have been extremely successful in her first 13 months.

"Overall, we've had a really good first year," said Cressman, owner of Leary's Flowers. "We sold everything we had this year."

Residents, including returning customers from the previous owner and several new patrons, have provided regular business to Leary's.

Since taking over a year ago, Cressman has made several improvements to the flower shop. Accompanied by her husband, Eric, and mother, Mary Long, who work in the shop with other employees, they bought a new van and updated client and ordering information with databases. The new van donned with a bumble bee logo and a new slogan, "Helping you celebrate life," is affectionately called the "bee mobile."

Cressman also renovated the shop's front room, painted the walls and stocked additional merchandise like bears, boxes of candy, balloon bouquets and cards.

"We've made it more warm for a flower shop," said Cressman. "When people walk in they notice the difference."

Leary's uses the Teleflora supply system that allows them to order flowers directly. Gift baskets, candles and wedding packages are also available.

Leary's Flowers, named after the original owner, has been a fixture on Gay Street in Phoenixville for 32 years. Prior to Cressman, who has one son and one daughter, the store was owned by Bill Hessler. Cressman worked part time with previous management as a flower designer before taking over the business upon Hessler's retirement.

"Flowers make people happy," said Cressman. "How can you go wrong?" Cressman worked in printing creating wedding invitations prior to working part time for three years at Leary's.

"I've always had an interest in flowers," said Cressman, who learned floral design at technical school.

"The quality is exquisite," Cressman said, of the flowers she uses in her arrangements. All flowers are of high grade and guaranteed, according to Cressman.

"I use top quality flowers," said Cressman. "I'm proud of that." Cressman believes that the biggest draw for customers is the personalized service and quality of Leary's Flowers' design. The open, airy arrangements are appealing compared to older, traditional styles that packed in flowers, according to Cressman.

"Whatever it takes to make people happy," said Cressman. "Good feedback and word of mouth are the best sellers."

Leary's Flowers will have Valentine's Day special arrangements with mugs, vases and chocolates roses in addition to the traditional flowers. Valentine's Day and Mother's Day are the two busiest days for flower shops that also do steady business year-round with birthdays, funerals and get-well gifts.

On Valentine's Day, Saturday, Feb. 14, the staff will have cookies, coffee and chocolate samples for walk-ins. Extra help will also be available in anticipation of a larger crowd.

Leary's Flowers, 407 Gay Street, Phoenixville, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Extended Valentine's Day hours begin 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13 and Saturday, Feb. 14, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Contact Leary's Flowers at 1-800-782-8087 or 610-935-1573 and by fax at 610-935-6808.

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