CEDAR RAPIDS — Tom Ernster is preparing for retirement by growing a new business.
Currently a full-time English professor at Kirkwood Community College, Ernster plans to retire in June 2020.
In view of that goal, he has launched a floral design business, Fleurs de Temps-Floral Designs by Thomas Joseph, to create flower arrangements, corsages and bouquets for weddings and special events.
“My new business venture is my way of preparing for an after-retirement career,” Ernster said. “I want to do something I love as much as teaching, and flowers are my second passion.”
Ernster said his fascination with flowers began as a young boy when one of his chores was to water his mother’s rose garden. Later in life, even as he pursued a 40-year career as an educator, the avid gardener worked part time in a floral shop and did some freelance work designing floral arrangements for weddings.
“My focus was on learning new techniques and keeping up with changes in techniques,” he said.
Ernster started the business out of his Marion home eight months ago with the intention of later getting a commercial space to use as a studio.
“I don’t want a traditional flower shop,” Ernster said. “Based on my experience working in a flower shop and mass-producing arrangements, my creativity was inhibited. When I do an arrangement, I’m not inclined to make it look a certain way.
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“I just start placing flowers so they seem to dance and move in unison with the greenery.”
Ernster spent the first few months after starting Fleurs de Temps — the name is French for “flowering time” — designing flower arrangements and bouquets to build a portfolio of photos. He then began marketing the business and secured commercial accounts with a couple of senior living communities.
“They have been a godsend,” he said. “They keep me in steady work.”
He also started holding floral design workshops, including one this past May for 75 residents of an Iowa City retirement community.
“It was so much fun,” he said. “I rolled in a cart with all these flowers and each table designed an arrangement. It’s where my teaching profession really assists me.”
In August, Ernster moved the business to a small design studio on the lower level of his wife’s Czech Village business, Harlequin Home Consignment and Antique Shop. There, he creates designs and offers a few items for sale.
He also plans to hold demonstrations and workshops at the shop several times a year.
“My goal is to establish Fleurs de Temps as a functioning Cedar Rapids business with a base of clientele so I can go full-time when I retire,” he said. “I’m putting my avocation to work late in life, and I hope I’m around long enough to enjoy it.”
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At a Glance
l Owner: Thomas Ernster
l Business: Fleurs de Temps-Floral Designs by Thomas Joseph
l Address: 76 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids
l Phone: (319) 573-2243
l Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
l Facebook: www.facebook.com/fleurstemps