When it comes to choosing a career, some people find a calling early in life, some discover their passion in school and some, like Janice Tate, are born into it.
“It’s sort of in my blood,” says Tate of Hirni’s Wayside Gardens Florist, the family business (and Red Road landmark) her parents brought to Pinecrest in 1964. In fact, what started as 5-acres off of Ludlam Avenue, where Tate’s parents grew flowers and sold them at a roadside open stand, has literally bloomed into the kind of community staple that’s rarely found outside of small-town America. “We feel such a part of a community,” says Tate. “Miami is such a big place, but where we are is a wholly different world.”
The legacy may have begun at the Ludlam property, but Tate’s parents soon moved the business to its current location off SW 57th Ave., where they continued to raise their own flowers (“My sisters and I, and our friends, would pick them and sell them,” says Tate.) until the need for stronger insecticides, and partnerships with larger businesses such as FTD, saw them enclose the space and buy more and more from South America.
As the business grew so did Tate and her siblings’ (she has a twin sister, an older sister and a younger brother) place in the business… albeit part time. “Education was really important to my mother,” says Tate. “She wanted us to have a choice.” That choice led Tate and her sisters into nursing, a career her mother deemed “extremely important,” and her brother into accounting. But rising careers or not, all four siblings continued to balance day jobs with work at the store and growing families until the passing of Tate’s mom placed the business fully into their hands.
Today, the longtime Pinecrest resident (and Palmetto Senior High alum) runs the shop alongside her husband, niece and daughter-in-law (two siblings moved away post-Hurricane Andrew and her retired older sister, the “corsage queen,” comes back by request) but even those who don’t share the Tate name boast a deep connection to the business. “Our employees are like family to us, most of them have worked with us for well over 25 years,” says Tate. “Jackie, our manager, started as a teenager with her grandmother being my mentor. Now, 38 years later, she is a big part of our business.”
Another big part, according to Tate, is the Pinecrest community itself, which she and husband Ted say they make an effort to support, supplying flowers to almost all of the local schools, temples and churches. “We feel like we know so much about [our customers]. We service them on both good days and sad days,” she says. “Those kinds of personal relationships are so special.”
Looking ahead, Tate says she sees Hirni’s staying firmly in family hands, with her own children, and now grandchildren, growing up in the business much as she did, and developing relationships with the next generation of Pinecrest residents. “You can buy flowers at the grocery store or on the street, but it’s not the same,” she says. “Family businesses aren’t always perfect, but they’re so important.”