NORTH BAY -- It’s not a typical gift to receive in January, especially in northern Ontario with below freezing temperatures, but Powassan Flowers was making sure everyone got to celebrate its one year anniversary Wednesday.

“I am handing out carnations to everybody,” said owner Debbie Gauthier, who stood bundled up outside her shop with a handful of individually wrapped flowers.

“My delivery guy Mike went to every business, handed out carnations to all the ladies just to say thank you to the town for supporting me this year … If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d be here.”

Powassan Flowers opened just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area in 2020.

“We had some trying times at the beginning,” she said. “I did close for seven weeks because I wasn’t too sure how things were going to go. But, I picked up just before Mothers Day and I haven’t stopped since. It’s been very, very busy and I owe it all to everybody that’s in this little town and surrounding communities.”

Right now, the shop on the corner of Main Street and Memorial Park in Powassan is open for both curbside pickup and delivery. Gauthier said they adjusted quickly to COVID-19 restrictions and the demand is actually quite high in the area.

“I think because of the pandemic I’m getting more deliveries now," she said. "People are sending more flowers. Christmas was crazy for orders and I don’t ever believe we’ve had that much in the past. But yeah, I’m just gearing up for Valentines because I think it’s going to be a whole five-day thing and not just a one-day thing.”

Found a way to thrive

Although many small businesses have struggled during the past several months, Powassan Flowers has found a way to thrive.

“The need is always there for happiness, for something positive, for reaching out to somebody,” said Kathie Hogan from 250 Clark, the community centre in town. “Flowers say love and this year, we’ve needed a lot of love and Debbie’s been here for it. So it’s lovely."

She said that, overall, 2020 was a good year in Powassan.

“Actually, it’s been an amazing year for Powassan," Hogan said. "There’s many businesses, new businesses, that have opened. Just generally the downtown, as you can hear in the background, is a very busy place despite COVID. Despite everything we’re still having fun in Powassan, doing it all safely and carefully.”

With one year in business now celebrated with flowers for everyone, Gauthier has her sights set on the future.

“I just hope that each year gets easier,” she laughed. “I’m just going to have to start hiring some staff I think because I don’t think I can keep doing it on my own. I’ve got one girl that’s coming up. She’s starting pretty soon and I’ve got my delivery guy. But, I think things are going to have to get a little bit crazy and I’m going to have to expand a bit more.”

For now, she said she is going with the flow and thankful for the community.

“I didn’t think I’d be this successful. I knew I was going to do well, but not this well,” Gauthier said.

“I just can’t believe it. It’s been really good.”