CARLSBAD, Calif. — A flower shop owner facing a demolition deadline is receiving help from an unlikely source. In this Zevely Zone, I went to Carlsbad where a friendship over flowers has blossomed into something beautiful.
Twenty-six years ago, Hortensia Contreras set up shop selling flowers along El Camino Real Boulevard. Hortensia's Flower Shop is located on El Camino Real south of Kelly Drive across from Robertson Ranch. We found Hortensia placing her flowers out on a table in front of her small business. "It's the best work of my life," said Hortensia with a smile. She grew up in Mexico City in a family of nine. The 57-year-old moved here in 1980 and is proud to call herself a U.S. citizen. "Very happy, because you feel part of the country and get to contribute," she said.
How many times have you bought flowers and moved on without getting to know the flower vendor? Over the decades, Hortensia says customers have come and gone but last August one new customer made a lasting impact on her life. "Tori is the best. I've never met another person like Tori, she gives everything," said Hortensia.
Tori King recently moved to Carlsbad from Oklahoma and wanted some flowers. "I was driving by one day, I moved into the apartments across the street," said Tori. "She offered to give me a free extra bouquet with my first bouquet I just thought that was really nice and we just kind of hit it off from there and became friends."
COVID-19 has been tough on Hortensia's business, so Tori decided to buy so many flowers her apartment could not hold anymore. "There's only so many you can buy. There's only so many friends you can give flowers to," said Tori.
The 24-year-old helped provide Christmas gifts to Hortensia's kids and then thought, "What if we started doing Spanish lessons?" Tori said she always wanted to learn how to speak Spanish. Tori's mother speaks Spanish, so Tori started paying Hortensia for Spanish lessons.
But their blossoming friendship has hit a snag. The land Hortensia's shop sits has been sold. "Her flower shop is about to get demolished; they are going to put some houses in this area. She has been here for 26 years and she has nowhere else to go," said Tori.
Hortensia told us she pays $640 a month to lease her space. "I checked different places but it's hard to find a place," Hortensia said. Tori can't stand the thought of Hortensia losing it all. Tori broke down in tears and told us, "She is such a nice person. She is not just a flower shop owner she is a good friend."
Hortensia told us her favorite flower is the hydrangea. In Spanish that flower is called, "Hortensia, ha, ha, ha," the flower vendor said with a smile. She then added, "Big flower. Big heart."
Which led us to Tori's next language lesson. I asked, "How do you say Tori has a big heart in Spanish?" Hortensia's eyes lit up and she announced, "Tiene mucho corazon!"
"She just needs somewhere to go," said Tori.