Tammy Heier stood in a pile of red rose petals and leaves, while more continued to drop. If you looked up, you could see Heier stripping the leaves off each of the long rose stems, getting the flowers ready for the standing order.
Each week, this is a ritual for Heier, floral manager at the Smith’s at 10600 Southern Highlands Parkway. She’s fulfilling a $229 order for 75 red and white roses, all stripped of their leaves.
Besides creating custom arrangements and fulfilling special orders, Heier creates arrangements sold in the grab-and-go case. She also designs store displays.
Beside her, red, sparkly Valentine’s Day hearts peeked from a cardboard box. Long-stemmed white roses rested in a large sink behind her. Small pots of baby roses surrounded her workstation, and vases filled with adornments – peacock feathers in this case – were interspersed with greenery.
Her daily sales range from $800 to $1,200, and they rise during holidays.
“Valentine’s Day is absolutely insane in here,” Heier mused.
Within her district, Heier’s Smith’s store is No. 1 in floral sales. Companywide, it’s usually No. 2 or No. 3.
“I know I’m making a difference,” Heier said. “I definitely cater to my customers. I hate to say, ‘No.’ ”
Before she had customers, though, Heier was part-owner of a machine shop who loved floral design.
She studied the craft in high school and worked at a local florist, but eventually cut her hours to part-time to devote more energy to her family. With her late husband, Jeff, she opened Phoenix Machining and began keeping the company’s books. In 2001, Jeff died, and she ran the company for one year before selling.
“It was a big shock. It was very, very unexpected,” she said of Jeff’s death.
After the machine shop sold, Heier wanted to start over in a new place with her two daughters from her first marriage. The three landed in Las Vegas, knowing no one but each other in the city. They had visited before on family vacations, and had wanted to buy a vacation home in Henderson.
Heier decided to make the move permanent.
Two months after arriving, she noticed a job advertisement for a floral designer. Heier set up an interview, but assumed it was with a small flower shop.
“When I came, what a surprise that it was Smith’s,” she remembered. “I didn’t know anything about grocery.”
Nine years later, Heier is one of the company’s lead floral designers. She worked at her first store for six years before transferring to the Southern Highlands location.
“I get paid to do my hobby and be entertained,” Heier said.
And she gets to fulfill special orders like the one that came in on Thursday morning: 25 roses, all stripped except for one thorn each.
Question: How did you get into floristry?
Answer: I wanted a break from my harder classes, so I signed up for retail floristry. I had a knack for it. After just a few months, I literally was teaching other kids in my class to tie bows and do designs. After that, I got a job at Elizabeth Ann’s Flowers where I worked for a couple of years.
Question: After six years, what made you want to transfer stores?
Answer: My clientele started changing. I wasn’t getting wedding work. I found out the woman who was working here was giving her notice, and Smith’s had wanted me to transfer over here years ago. I decided it was time. This was a good move.
Question: What would people find surprising about the Smith’s floral department?
Answer: I do everything under the sun with floral. They don’t know I do weddings, funerals and parties. They don’t know that I can go to their house to do this. They just have to talk to me.
Question: Whom do you bounce ideas off of?
Answer: That would be my buddy Chris (Scabo). He and I, we talk a lot. He’s just down the road. His talent is just amazing and I consider us equals.
Question: What’s your favorite part about doing weddings?
Answer: My favorite bride is the one who says ‘I trust you.’ Give me your colors and your tastes and I can go from there. You’re never going to find something in my book more beautiful or special than what I can make you. Those brides get their flowers and they start crying.
Question: What’s been one of the more unusual requests you’ve received?
Answer: Last year for Valentine’s Day, a man ordered a dozen red roses, then requested I tie a $100 bill to each of them, in the shape of a butterfly. I was like, ‘I want a boyfriend like that.’ We had an escort walk him to his car.
Question: You’re a one-woman department. How does that work out?
Answer: It’s a lot of work. It’s hard to find someone to help. It’s a talent. Either you have it or you don’t.
Question: What’s your favorite part of the day?
Answer: I’m not going to say going home. No, I like coming in in the morning and greeting everybody. People are just starting to wake up. That’s kind of cool. Watching the customers when they come in, they’re kind of groggy but you give them something and they’re happy.
Question: What’s the most challenging part of your day?
Answer: Getting stuff done on time, in the hours I’m allotted to do it in. It’s just a lot of work.
Question: Where do you see floral’s future going?’
Answer: People like the cash and carry stuff, but I’m all about my clients. I’d like to see where some of our bigger stores offer delivery. Our sales would go through the roof.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at
email@example.com or 702-380-4588.
Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.
Name: Tammy Heier
Position: floral manager, Smith’s
Quote: “I get paid to do my hobby and be entertained.”
Family: Hanna, 19; Tessa, 18; Lillian, 6; Krissy, 5
Education: 1988 graduate of Hayward High School in Hayward, Calif. where she studied retail floristry
Work history: Elizabeth Ann’s Flowers, Gigi’s Flowers, Phoenix Machining, Smith’s
Favorite book: “I’m sucker for romance novels from the 1800’s. I love Nora Roberts.”
Favorite movie: “When Harry Met Sally” and “Mamma Mia”
Hometown: Newark, Calif.
In Las Vegas since: 2003
Business address and contact number: Smith’s, 10600 Southern Highlands Parkway, 702-254-0102