Children are so frequently asked what they want to be when the grow up, it seems they start to formulate plans early and often hold on to those ideas through adulthood. Girls in the 1970’s and 1980’s often wanted to be nurses or teachers among other vocations, but how many of us knew someone who wanted to be a florist or own a gift shop? After working for a local florist, graduating from Pine Bush High School then SUNY Cobbleskill with a degree in horticulture, Allison Watkins Blazeski opened Hearts & Flowers Florist in 1986 and bought the historic building on the corner of Main Street in Pine Bush in 1990.
“We made some changes to the building through the years,” Blazeski explains. “The biggest commotion was when we added the side windows and took the old sign down. Over time we added the gift shop upstairs and as tenants left, we claimed the space for ourselves,” she said and pointed out where the floor and ceiling are different from the removal of walls.
“It is amazing we have been at this location for over 33 years already,” she smiles, “It’s also kind of neat that my husband Rich’s great grandfather was at one time a pharmacist/owner of this building. I’ve always just loved what I do. I feel like it is a gift from God that allows me to express anything with flowers. It really is true, you truly have to pick something you love and you will never work a day in your life.”
Hearts ‘n Flowers was closed for a time during the Covid-19 outbreak. The business was reopened in stages; first through orders only, next with parking lot delivery of orders, and finally with shoppers permitted inside the store with masks as required.
Allison married Richard Blazeski and they began life together raising three sons and a daughter (Richard, Joseph, Alexander, and Kathryn), as well as beef cows, corn and hay on Watswyck Farm.
“I think the All Night Graduation party started in 1986. It was designed to keep our kids safe on graduation night. Everything was in place when I joined and people wanted to help and be involved,” said Blazeski.
Blazeski has been a lead volunteer, at times organizer, and current co-chair for the event. “Fundraising is key. The years we raise up to $10,000 allow us to give some big prizes to the graduates at the end for staying. We divide the money up with a grand prize check being $300 at the end of the night. One of my personal favorite fundraisers was flocking. With a suggested donation, people gave three addresses they wanted us to flock with plastic pink flamingos. It took a little while to figure out the logistics (coming up with a planned flocking map), but it was a lot of fun.”
Recognized for her contributions, Blazeski received a community service award and had one of the high school yearbooks dedicated to her. This year is the last for Blazeski’s involvement in the All Night Graduation party, although she may support the event in a different way. A past member of the Pine Bush Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary, and frequent contributor to many community events (if a charitable event has centerpieces on the table, ask if they are donated by Hearts & Flowers), she would like to shift her focus now to the legacy fund created in memory of her son, Alex Blazeski, who passed away as the result of a snowmobile accident in 2013.
“I’m still in the planning stages,” she explained. “We want to be able to help people in a different way, something that could be uniquely impactful for an individual or family rather than a scholarship.”
In the end, whether talking about the longevity of the business or giving back to the community, Blazeski feels you simply must have passion for what you are doing and adds, “I couldn’t do what I do without my family.”