Shirley McQueary from Elkhart, Ind., opened Shirley's Flower Arrangements on Commercial Street Sept. 1. Guys welcome, too. (The Daily News/John Eby)
Shirley McQueary from Elkhart, Ind., opened Shirley's Flower Arrangements on Commercial Street Sept. 1. Guys welcome, too. (The Daily News/John Eby)

Archived Story

Shirley McQueary having grand opening all this week

Published 8:52am Wednesday, September 2, 2009

By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News

Shirley’s Flower Arrangements, which opened Tuesday on Pennsylvania Avenue in the former Dixon-Livingston insurance agency, is a guy-friendly flower shop.

Along with all the artificial arrangements and holiday sprays for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day are gift items with candles Shirley McQueary creates featuring sports – NASCAR drivers, Bears football, Cubs and White Sox baseball, University of Michigan and Notre Dame helmets, hunting, motorcycling and golfer Tiger Woods.

Some of these handcrafted displays are frilly and pink and suitable for baby showers – she can even incorporate the new arrival’s name.

“Kids can get something like this for their grandpa or their coaches,” she said Tuesday afternoon.

For a friend with a Bears statue, she made goal posts and incorporated a ceramic football and benches. “He went nuts,” she said.

Shirley, who is assisted by her daughter, Jamie, for years was a group leader who worked almost 30 years for Patrick in Elkhart, Ind.

The grandmother of six has another daughter who lives in Mishawaka, Ind.

Shirley grew up in Mishawaka and was displaced by the AM General redevelopment.
“There were 51 of us whose homes were taken by eminent domain for parking. I was upset because I’d saved my money to get a home after living in a trailer for 19 years. That was 1999 they started this program. In 2000, I got my other house in Elkhart. Three years after that I lost my job at Patrick and I had to get a job at CTS. That was a lot in four years. I like Dowagiac. I don’t really know that many people, but the ones I’ve met have treated me nice.”

Shirley’s hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. She’s closed Mondays. Her grand opening with free coffee and cookies continues the rest of this week.
“A woman asked me if I would made her a centerpiece, so I started making things. I never sold them, I just gave them away. I just like doing them. I like messing with stuff,” she said.

After Patrick folded six years ago, McQueary worked five years for another Elkhart company, CTS, making vehicle sensors, before being laid off in the recession.
At Patrick she made door fronts for recreational vehicle cabinets.

She led a group of about 25 people.

McQueary, who turns 64 this month, had “never had to have a resume or anything like that. I was making pretty good money, so when I went out to find a job I qualified for, they wanted me to paint and chop for about half the money, so I decided to do something I’ve never done before.”

“I thought I’d try this and see what happens. This is the first time I’ve ever had a business,” said McQueary, whose location is owned by Bob Haas, whom she has dated for four years.

“I’m not competing with Booth’s” on the other side of Commercial Street. “She’s been around for 15 or 18 years and her specialty is real flowers. This is just a sideline. Maybe they’ll call me back. This is something I like doing.”

She said there are but three things in her store she did not make.

The insurance agency’s file room she is using as display space for clothing for babies, children and women.

“This is something that you don’t have to go in day in and day out, saying, ‘I hate that job.’ I come in here and make four or five things at night.”

“I’m doing a variety of stuff,” McQueary said. “I don’t know if it’s going to make it. If not, I had fun doing it.”

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