Northwest Business Magazine

Success Stories: The Strawflower Shop & Rug Merchant

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What began as a new approach to flower arrangements in Geneva has blossomed into a multifaceted outlet that can dress up any room in your home.

Strawflower Shop & Rug Merchant, in Geneva, sells a combination of floral arrangements, home decor and accessories, and area rugs.

Strawflower Shop & Rug Merchant, in Geneva, sells a combination of floral arrangements, home decor and accessories, and area rugs.

For almost 40 years, the Strawflower Shop & Rug Merchant, 210 W. State St., in Geneva, has been helping customers to transform their houses into homes.

The Strawflower Shop is a family-owned home furnishing and accessories store that has just about everything imaginable to complete your dwelling. The shop has options for every room, with items ranging from furniture, area rugs, draperies and bedding to lamps, mirrors, wall decor, table runners and candles.

The Strawflower Shop also offers decorating services including Christmas in-home decorating, in-home interior design services and floral designs. Strawflower’s seasoned designers have outfitted more than five Chicago Luxury Home Tour houses.

“We call ourselves a home furnishings and accessories boutique,” says Mike Haas, who co-owns the business with his wife, Susan. “We love working with our customers to provide them with anything they need. At 12,000 square feet, we’re not the biggest furniture store, but we don’t try to compete with the larger ones that are more than twice our size. Our goal is to help people in the western suburbs to enjoy their homes in a way that’s pleasing to them.”

In 1978, armed with a horticulture degree, Susan started the Strawflower Shop as a flower business and home accessories provider. “Strawflower mixed fresh and silk for weddings and silk and dried for arrangements, which was a unique combination back then,” Mike says. “You have to be different to make it in business.”

Mike married Susan in 1981 and joined the business two years later. Mike had no prior floral industry experience. He was working in Aurora, managing Oberweis Dairy, a family-owned business he joined straight from college. He enjoyed it, but realized he wanted to run his own enterprise.

“It’s been an interesting business,” he says. “I learned a lot in the first three or four years. It’s something we enjoyed right from the start. I love helping a client pick the right area rug or sofa and working with them to put together a final product that works for them. They come into the store because there’s something missing. Sometimes they’re not sure what they’re looking for. Customers will bring a photograph of a mantel because they need assistance to come up with an oil painting or floral arrangement that will match. It’s always something different.”

The Strawflower Shop has moved three times over the years, but it’s remained true to its hometown. Today, the business employs a staff of 14, including Mike and Susan’s daughters, Kelsey and Stephanie, who handle a variety of duties, including buying material. Their son, Perry, lives in Montana and is a distinguished ceramics artist. Customers will find his pottery in his family’s Geneva store.

Working closely with family is one of the benefits of the shop.

“The neat thing is we get to see them most of the day,” Mike says. “We’re very fortunate to be able to work together. We don’t see each other every minute of the day, because we all do different things. But we rely on each other to take care of what needs to be done. We all contribute to a team effort of helping the store and our interior designers. Susan and I have recognized in the past few years that it’s OK to step away for a few days. We try to leave work at work, and we leave it in capable hands.”

The Strawflower Shop offers a wide range of products in its floral department. That’s where the arrangements, wreaths and wall swags are created. The staff designs everlasting floral arrangements with silk flowers, dried pods and berries, and other interesting media.

“We emphasize everlasting flowers instead of fresh flowers that will eventually get tossed out,” says Mike. “Our staff assembles beautiful arrangements for dining rooms and kitchens that will last for years.”

After all, floral arrangements can make or break a room.

“Sometimes, that arrangement helps tie in all the colors in the room, for example,” he says. “If you have a couple of colors in the rug or furniture, it’s usually the arrangement on the mantelpiece that ties all of that together. It warms the room and makes your house a home.”

The Strawflower Shop opened its rug business in 1985 and now offers everything from traditional to transitional pieces. “There was a huge need,” says Mike, who served a six-year term on the American Rug Council. “There weren’t many sources out there selling area rugs in the Fox Valley.”

The rug business has grown nearly as fast as other segments.

“We started selling country homespun rugs before looped and braided rugs became popular,” Mike says. “We’ve tried to keep a good-quality area rug at a good price point. As wood and stone floors became more popular, so did area rugs.”

Without question, there are challenges to running a business. The recession, for example, took its toll. But during the turmoil, the Strawflower Shop discovered a unique opportunity.

“Instead of decorating new homes, our designers found a demand for remodeling existing homes,” Mike says. “It opened new doors for us. We found a large group of clients who couldn’t afford to buy a new home. We went in and helped with everything from choosing new colors to wall decor.”

Strawflower’s busy time of the year begins in August once school is in session and people are starting to think about updates to their homes. Beginning in late October, the holiday spirit kicks in, as Christmas trees and decorations take over the first-floor retail space. The store carries an array of holiday ornaments, including Inge-Glas, blown glass ornaments made in Germany.

“People start looking around their home and want to do some decorating before the holidays,” Mike says. “It’s a fun and busy time of the year.”

The Strawflower Shop also offers decorating services and helps clients to prepare their home for the holidays. Susan is the store’s director of decorating. For the floral designers and interior designers on staff, there’s no shortage of creative ideas. “Our designers have a wealth of experience, which the customers have grown to appreciate,” Mike says.

To show their appreciation of Geneva’s supportive community, the Haas family strongly believes in giving back. The family and its business is involved with the Geneva Chamber of Commerce and nonprofits, such as TriCity Family Services, a leading provider of counseling and other mental health services.

As far as the business goes, the future looks bright. “The business is always changing,” says Mike. “It’s fun to watch what the top designers and manufacturers have coming down the pike.”

“The design is always changing in the marketplace,” he adds. “We pick furniture for our clients to make sure it’s comfortable, high-quality and functional. We want to make sure that if you buy it today, it’s not going to look outdated in a few years. We want to make sure we offer accessories you can use in your home for a long period of time.”

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