3rd-generation Colorado florist opens Rocky Mountain Wildflowers

Don't expect instant success when opening a business in Estes Park, advised Lorie Cooper, proprietor (with her husband, Kevin) of Rocky Mountain Wildflowers, a new full-service florist company located in Lower Stanley Village. As a third-generation Colorado florist, she knows the secret to success is "knowing your market, having a strong business plan, be willing to spend money on marketing and make friends with your fellow business owners," Cooper said.

Cooper was born in Estes Park and grew up in Longmont, where her great-grand grandfather, Otto Schmitz, settled after emigrating from Germany. In the 1920s, he opened Longmont's Schmitz Floral. Her father's family ranched on Big Elk Ranch in Allenspark.

Cooper lived in California for 10 years and then in Texas for five; she returned to Longmont 15 years ago to be with family, and nine years ago, she moved to Estes Park. The Coopers have two children, Taylor and Kennedi, who attend Estes Park High School.

"I've been a wedding and event planner for 32 years," Cooper said. She and Kevin, who is a wedding officiate, also own and operate Marry Me in Colorado, a wedding and elopement planning business; and, Vows, Estes Park, a wedding retail shop.

The idea to open a florist shop again came from Cooper's family traditions and because the couple was doing more and more floral arranging in their garage after two local florists closed recently, she said.

"This is something that I have wanted to do for many years," Cooper said. "I owned a florist as part of my wedding business in California and adored working with flowers and making things come alive with color, the smells, textures and shapes and working with mother nature's own little miracles."

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Cooper has appeared on the Montel Williams show, on Oprah's Discovery Channel, 9News. She has written a wedding planning guide and her work has appeared in several instances of print media, TV, and online resources.

"I have facilitated weddings for many political officials including senators and a governor's daughter's weddings, as well as a spectacular Kennedy family wedding in the 1990s," she said.

The Rocky Mountain Wildflowers shop contains flowers in various mediums including fresh-cut, specialty plants, silk and latex keepsake flower, and dried botanicals.

"Our flowers are used from every day sentiments to special events and occasions such as weddings, vow renewals, anniversaries, birthdays, reunions, prom, new baby, house and business warmings to 'I love you,' 'I'm sorry,' and 'for no reason at all,' " she said, "and to celebrate those we have lost with 'Celebration of Life' arrangements."

Rocky Mountain Wildflowers also carries unique and specialty gifts.

"While we all adore living in Estes and in the mountains, we sometimes need an outlet for a gift that isn't mountain themed," she noted. "So we carry great girlfriend gifts, hostess gifts, birthday or any occasion that is shared with a little something special."

Cooper thinks Estes Park's business future is bright.

"I see a steady shift in those coming back to us who may have stepped away during the past couple of years," she said. "I have witnessed the increase in locals supporting locals - less trips down the hill and more into the small businesses that are owned by the family next door. The wedding market will always remain strong in Estes Park. The beauty of our backyard and the experience we can offer to the families and friends of our brides and grooms will not be wavering any time in the future."

Among the many challenges the Coopers have faced with their businesses over the years was the literal weathering of the storm during the flood of 2013 and its aftermath. Also, the fires of 2012 affected business locally, but "I have seen this community rally in the face of adversity," Cooper said.

"I would never want to have a business in a large city and loose the camaraderie of what we have in Estes. We support one another not only from an economical standpoint but from a sense of family. We have had our share of obstacles - the flood being one - but thankfully have been able to recover and regroup, and now with Wildflowers, we are growing!"

Running a business in Estes Park "takes a leap of faith," said Cooper. "Too many small businesses in our area fail because of the inability to stay strong and have financial strength to make it through that first year. With time comes the trust and support of your neighbors.

"Don't only rely on the tourist as your sole support, but also those in your own arms' reach."

Rocky Mountain Wildflowers is located at 513 Big Thompson (Next to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Shakes Alive).

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