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Passion for flowers makes transition easy




ELLIS -- Even though he followed another career path for several years, Jim Moeder never strayed far from his passion of working with flowers and plants.

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ELLIS -- Even though he followed another career path for several years, Jim Moeder never strayed far from his passion of working with flowers and plants.

That's why it was an easy decision for Moeder to open his own floral shop after 11 years in the education field.

Big Creek Floral & Gifts opened July 1, and Moeder is in full swing of planning for his grand opening, scheduled for Aug. 21 to 23.

"I knew there was a need here, and I had a lot of local people ask if I would consider opening a (floral) store," said Moeder, who has served the past eight years as principal of St. Mary Grade School in Ellis.

Moeder is no stranger to the floral business.

He started helping his mother, Pat Moeder, in her garage on her farm near Oakley when he was in his early 20s. One Christmas, Moeder's mom was working on some floral arrangements and asked him to help her, to "green them in."

"I didn't know what that even meant," said Moeder, who learned soon enough.

Mother and son decided to pair up in business, and Moeder served as manager, then owner of Pat's Country Expressions in Oakley for 17 years before moving to the Hays area in 2003.

All the time while teaching in La Crosse, then in administration at St. Mary's, Moeder kept his hand in the floral business.

He served as a consultant for several area floral shops, including at Aurora Floral in Aurora, Neb., owned and operated by his grandparents, Albert and Grace Potter, for 49 years.

Moeder will return to Nebraska this week to help at Aurora Floral and said he considers it an honor to design funeral arrangements for his grandfather, who died Saturday at age 97.

Moeder gave himself a year to plan his newest venture and told the St. Mary school council last fall he would be resigning at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

He began looking for a location immediately, and it took a while.

"After having 2,300 square feet in Oakley, I knew I wanted enough room to carry certain items," he said. "I wanted larger than most was available."

While looking for a cooler for his shop in the spring, he saw one advertised by Luke Karlin, a local businessman who also happened to have a building available for remodeling he would rent when completed.

"It all lined up. It really did," Moeder said.

Ellis' newest business is located at 1014 Washington. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

It took Karlin approximately three months to remodel the building, which now houses jewelry, candles, home decor and inspirational items. Moeder also plans to add greeting cards.

Moeder said one of his biggest challenges is coming up with a good balance of items to display.

But Moeder thrives on challenges.

"You want a wide variety of things," he said. "But you have to decide what will sell."

Moeder knew right where to look for a right-hand assistant.

Ellis resident Sheri Wiesner had grown up in a flower shop in Plainville, which was owned and run by her mom, Ruby Feldkamp.

"It was a forced education," Wiesner said with a laugh.

She and Moeder worked together in several floral businesses in the area, and "Jim and I always had a good time, really enjoyed working together," she said.

So she equally was excited to join Moeder in his new undertaking.

"Fresh flowers is his niche, and he's a great designer," Wiesner said. "And for me, I don't have to drive to Hays to go to work."

"I love the fresh flower part of it," said Moeder, who said trying to make an arrangement just right and personal is what makes him tick. "For funerals, people will call and say, 'I want something different.' I'm not traditional, so I can do different.

"It's all about customer service."

If a customer wants a certain plant or flower and doesn't know the name, no problem.

The business features an entire wall with descriptions and photos of fresh flowers, flowering plants and green plants to help customers identify the flower or plant they want.

Big Creek Floral is a Teleflora member with capabilities to send and receive flower orders worldwide. Locally, Moeder plans to deliver in Ellis, Hays and WaKeeney.

In addition to fresh flowers and plants, there also are candy bouquets and helium balloons available.

Moeder said he hopes to serve his customers for any special occasion, including birthdays, weddings and anniversaries, births and funerals, and any holiday from Valentine's Day to Christmas, and everything in between.

"And 'just because,' " Wiesner said.

While he said his main occasions so far mostly have been funerals and weddings, Moeder already is planning ahead.

"With fall and Christmas just around the corner, I'm already getting ready," he said. "That's where my experience has helped, to not sit and wait, but to be ready."