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Ma's Garden Boutique on Longboat Key opens amid pandemic

The mother-daughter team behind floral shop are looking forward to the adventure.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. May 20, 2020
  • Longboat Key
  • Neighbors
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There’s no time like the present, especially when dreams are involved, even during a global pandemic.

So, Lisa and Ava O’Hara, the mother-and-daughter team behind the brand-new Longboat Key business, Ma's Garden Boutique, are forging ahead. 

Lisa and 15-year-old Ava run the florist, which opened in Whitney Plaza on May 8. Beginning a new business during a global pandemic is sure to raise some eyebrows, but Lisa had acquired the space back in January with plans to open April 1. They had the space, so when they were able, they opened. 

“This was just like a whisper of a problem,” Lisa said. “It didn’t even occur to me that anything like this would happen. I wasn’t really sure, and I was thinking the timing wasn’t that great. But we were able to open up earlier than expected.” 

Their official opening of May 8 coincided with Florida’s Phase I reopening plan, which allowed for places such as retailers, hair salons and restaurants to open back up with reduced capacity beginning on May 4. Luckily for Ma’s Garden Shop, its neighbors on either side are Design 2000 and Longbeach Cafe, which opened up that week and the following one, respectively. Ma’s Garden Boutique has a floral display in both businesses. 

“People are constantly walking by,” Ava said. 

“So far we’re just circulating through word-of-mouth,” Lisa said. “There are a tremendous amount of people coming in for orchids considering we just started up.” 

The duo already feels supported by the community at the north end of the island, especially residents of Longbeach Village. Residents pop in and buy flowers for their homes where they spend so much time these days. 

Lisa is a Realtor and Ava is a high schooler who studies in between customers. So how did they decide to enter the floral industry? 

“Actually, I've always wanted to open up a garden shop,” Lisa said. “Gardening has always been in my family and I've been in sales my whole life. I've never really done anything that I was passionate about, and this opportunity came up when this lease was open.”

The “ma” of the shop is Lisa’s grandmother, who inspired her to take up gardening when she was a child. 

“I named it after her with her in mind,” Lisa said. “She had a garden in her backyard … I used to be with her a lot growing up and in the garden and helping her with different things that she was doing.”

Just like Lisa watched her grandmother’s garden, Ava watched her mother’s love for planting and caring for flowers throughout her life. 

“Well, she's always been a gardener from when I was like 5, she’d always be in the backyard planting,” Ava said. “She's kind of helped me get into the species of plants and everything. So I've kind of followed along in the journey.”

When the O’Hara family moved down to Florida, Lisa began diving into her love of flowers, especially orchids as she spent more and more time at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. 

The main prong of their business is their orchids, though they also sell cut flower arrangements, handmade lavender candles and succulents, which Ava likes to design. Lisa wants to have flower arrangements in the restaurants on the key, as well as at the Longboat Key Club where her husband Terry works as the director of golf. 

Everything is done at their nearby home on the north end of the island and then brought to the shop, where orchids dot the area amidst garden benches and decor. The business partners are still honing their skills with flower arranging, and plan on taking courses in New York in November. 

As Lisa settles into what she’s always wanted, Ava looks to explore her future. She’s not sure what she wants to pursue, whether it’s journalism, broadcasting or business. She's homeschooled and working with the shop fits into the curriculum, in a way. 

“Ava’s got this monster personality, in a good way,” Lisa said. “This is something she can put on her resume.”

The younger O’Hara helps with the business’ social media and advertising, and is learning about the floral industry and the art behind it alongside her mother, who said they make a great team. 

“I like sales, I like working with people, but I really like this,” Lisa said. “It's a little bit more hands-on, you know?”

“It’s more ‘you,'” Ava added. 

“Right. It's more of a reflection I guess of my personality and what I love to do,” Lisa said. 

“She's always been in the backyard with a shovel,” Ava said.


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