Shawn Durborow-Bowersox sat at a Starbucks table across from his boss, Cherylann Wagner, over a pair of coffees in 2014.
Wagner had called for a meeting—one that would hold an agenda her employee wasn’t anticipating.
“It was a two-part meeting,” he said. “One to tell me that I needed to be at work on time because I was always late—she was fun like that—and two she wanted me to buy her business.”
She owned a flower design business in Hershey, with clients as big as the Hershey Lodge and Hershey’s Chocolate World. Each week, Durborow-Bowersox helped his boss cut, water and arrange floral masterpieces for the Hershey enterprises. He enjoyed what he did, but there was one problem: Durborow-Bowersox had never run a business.
“She said, ‘I’ll teach you; we will talk about it later,’” Durborow-Bowersox said.
However, a few months after their meeting, Wagner passed away.
“Later never came,” he said.
Durborow-Bowersox assumed the responsibility of making sure everything floral in Hershey was taken care of for the Christmas season. It was difficult to fill the shoes of his former boss, but he had no choice.
“I basically learned on my own,” he said. “It seemed like everyone supported me. I really had to scratch my head over that because I didn’t realize what I had.”
When Frank Gilbert, Hershey Lodge’s general manager, asked Durborow-Bowersox where he would work next, he didn’t know. He would have to get a job somewhere else now.
“He said, ‘no, you’re going to start your own business,’” Durborow-Bowersox said. “Frank believed in me. I didn’t necessarily believe in myself, but he believed in me.”
Made It Work
In February 2015, with a name inspired by his favorite Nat King Cole song, Paper Moon Flowers and Events was born.
Each week, Durborow-Bowersox left his house in Harrisburg, drove his PT Cruiser to the wholesaler, stuffed it full with flowers and headed to Hershey. A day of changing out floral arrangements can take up to eight hours, and, every other day, he returned to water and maintain everything.
“I was like a little flower peddler,” he said. “I just made it work. All the things Cherylann taught me that I didn’t know she was teaching me came out.”
Not only did Durborow-Bowersox work to create arrangements as beautiful as Wagner’s, but he intentionally sought out relationships and conversations with everyone he came in contact with.
“I believed in talking to everyone, and I still do,” he said. “From the housekeeper to the highest. Everyone’s important, and you have to treat them the same.”
Durborow-Bowersox is the lead florist for the Hershey Lodge and boasts a client list including the Hershey Conservatory, the Hershey Story Museum, the Hershey Country Club and Hershey’s Chocolate World.
With only one employee, he grew his flower business almost singlehandedly.
Now, it was time to open a storefront.
One rainy afternoon, Durborow-Bowersox was driving home when he passed the same property he always did before turning down the street to his home. This time, there was a lease sign in the window.
In October, the building was his, but it wasn’t until January that Durborow-Bowersox began turning the property—long boarded-up but most recently renovated for an office—into a store. He painted, wallpapered, ordered coolers for the flowers and purchased décor items to sell, some of which he sources from local small businesses.
“I give you a custom touch,” he said. “I give you real foil on your flowers or brown paper around your bouquet.”
Last month, Paper Moon Flowers opened on N. 3rd Street, offering custom flower arrangements, candles, gifts and decorations to the Harrisburg community.
Durborow-Bowersox recognizes the lack of flower shops in Harrisburg and is excited to have a presence in the community.
“I’ve lived here for 20 years, and I can’t buy a birthday card anywhere,” he said. “It drives me crazy. I want people in the community to be able to buy a birthday card or get a little flower arrangement or get a small gift for someone.”
Overall, Durborow-Bowersox wants to bring joy to the neighborhood.
“Flowers make people happy, and they smell good,” he said.
Paper Moon Flowers is located at 916 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit their Facebook page.