Dale Victoria Curtis will celebrate the 15th anniversary of her business Blue Ivy Flowers this autumn, but her new venture operating Ensign the Florist is keeping that milestone in perspective.
"Next year, 2022, will be the 100th anniversary of Ensign the Florist," says Chris Curtis, Dale Victoria's husband and business partner. "Bill Ensign's father, James Lee Ensign, opened the shop in 1922 on Rossville Boulevard, and in 1925 moved here to South Crest Road."
Chris and Dale Victoria Curtis took over operation of Ensign in October 2020, and moved their Blue Ivy Flowers business from Patten Parkway in downtown Chattanooga into the shop in Rossville.
Constant construction on Patten Parkway, which began in the summer of 2019 and is still ongoing, along with the impact of COVID-19 in 2020 inclined the Curtises to make the move when Bill and Connelly Ensign approached them about it, Dale Victoria says.
"It was such an awesome opportunity," she says. "When we decided to go forward with the opportunity with Ensign, we moved Blue Ivy into the Ensign building, so now we have two flower shops that share the same roof."
While the Curtises operate Ensign day-to-day, the business remains in the Ensign family. The two businesses are complementary, and work at very different scales, Chris Curtis says.
"Ensign is literally five to 10 times the scale of Blue Ivy," Chris says. "Where Blue Ivy would do 10 to 20 orders a day, Ensign does 50 to 100 a day."
Ensign has a more traditional, menu-based approach to floral arrangements, and contracts with local funeral homes and the Teleflora service. Blue Ivy is a bit more customized and cutting edge, and has established itself as a more contemporary florist, Dale Victoria says.
"We have two different sets of customers," she says.
"Together, we make this work," Chris adds.
Mother's Day is their second-busiest time of the year, behind only Valentine's Day, and the pandemic actually boosted Mother's Day in the floral business in 2020, the Curtises say.
"They couldn't see their mom, but they could send her flowers," Chris says.
"It was the best Mother's Day Blue Ivy ever had," Dale Victoria adds.
Ensign the Florist / Blue Ivy Flowers
* Address: 1300 South Crest Road, Rossville
Dale Victoria is a master floral designer who got her start driving a flower delivery van in Murfreesboro when she was 20 years old.
"I've been chased by dogs, I've had flats in the pouring down rain on the side of the road," she laughs. "I did that for two years, and as that shop grew I got pulled into the shop to start learning things."
Early in her career, she returned home to Chattanooga and worked as a floral designer at Ensign.
"I think it was 1988," she says. "It's surreal. We're standing in the same spaces and working in the same places."
She opened Blue Ivy in October 2006 in Hixson, and moved to the Volunteer Building on Patten Parkway in 2014. Though she hated to leave the space, the combination of the chronic construction and the pandemic were just too much, Dale Victoria says.
As they've gotten the hang of operating two businesses, and growing from a staff of three to 12, the Curtises have enjoyed getting to know the multi-generational customers who make Ensign part of their special occasions, Dale Victoria says.
"Ensign is like three generations deep with families," she says. "It's all the way from babies being born, proms, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, all the way to the end of your life.
"We celebrate life with flowers. That's what we do, and that's what I tell people."