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Red Deer entrepreneur enjoys the challenges and perks of running Stems Flowers & Cafe

Amanda Hadland says having a business means constantly evolving
Stems Flowers & Cafe owner Amanda Hadland, enjoys the challenges and perks of running her Red Deer business. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Five years ago, Amanda Hadland left her job at a financial institution wanting a new challenge.

She took on a “three-prong” cafe, flower and gift shop venture, and then had to weather the pandemic as a small business owner — so the challenges have never stopped.

But Hadland said she loves running Stems Flowers & Cafe in the Skyway Medical Centre across from Red Deer hospital.

“I love being surrounded by great people,” Hadland added, referring to her team of six employees as well as her customers.

“I took a leap of faith,” she recalled. “I ran across this business for sale and I knew if it was Stems I wanted to pursue it…”

The business, which operates on the same site as the former Central Alberta Florists, was up for sale after a previous owner moved to Mexico. “I’ve always bought flowers here and I knew I always loved flowers,” said Hadland.

As some of her own past experiences fell in the line of food and beverages, she relished the idea of expanding the edible offerings at Stems after taking over the cafe.

Unfortunately, the pandemic happened and customer traffic dropped off sharply. Hadland ended up having to temporarily close the cafe and depend on online flower orders and deliveries to carry the business through the worst of COVID.

But, with pandemic problems hopefully behind us, she reopened the cafe last spring and hired a new chef in July. The expanded gourmet cafe menu now includes chili and fresh-made bread, paninis, chicken pot pies, as well as soup and sandwiches, cakes and other kinds of baking.

Many customers, who have stopped in for lunch or coffee before heading upstairs to orthopedic appointments, are returning with friends and spouses, she said.

“I feel like it’s getting better… Some of the older people, especially, like to come in and have a chit-chat, so I encourage my staff, if they have time, to sit down and talk to them,” added Hadland.

Her biggest recent challenge has been with staffing as she regains financial footing. “To be honest, there’s a disconnect between what you want to pay and what you can pay,” said Hadland, who hopes to be able to narrow this as her business recovers. Meanwhile, she’s open to requests for more flexibility in scheduling.

“In business, we have to be constantly evolving. It’s exhausting,” she said, with a laugh.

Flower sales continue to be the Stems mainstay. Hadland and her staff pull have pulled together colourfully festive and elegant arrangements for weddings, sympathy orders, birthdays, anniversaries and many other special occasions. She’s happy to see the available flower selection back to a pre-pandemic array, and looks forward to filling upcoming Christmas orders.

With a shop-full of giftware — ranging from candles to bath products, handmade quilts and purses to many Alberta-made goods — Hadland is super excited about the holiday season.

After Remembrance Day, her whole shop transforms into a festive extravaganza: “We throw up Christmas,” she joked, inviting Red Deerians to stop in for a rush of holiday spirit.

Among the giftware at Stems are Ecuadorian-made blankets with a Western design. She noted Calgary’s Heartprints company provides a free blanket to a non-profit with every customer purchase. “Last year, we were able to give away 100 blankets.”

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