Two years ago, Jennifer Morris was at a crossroads. Her successful floral business, J. Morris Flowers, was outgrowing the family home in Leesburg, and her husband, Todd, had the opportunity to make a career change as a fundraiser at the couple’s college alma mater.
“The business [had grown] larger than my house, and I had three little kids,” she said. “And it was like, ‘Do I want to be the stay-at-home mom for a while or do I want to be the businesswoman and expand?’ ”
The couple decided that the family would move to Michigan. Jennifer Morris gave up her flower business, and Todd Morris accepted the position with Albion College, where he had been a football and baseball star.
They soon realized they had made a mistake.
“I [felt] like maybe I chose the wrong path,” she said.
The pull of Leesburg and her love of flowers set them back on the right path. The family moved back to its old neighborhood this year, Todd Morris returned to his former job selling fitness equipment to businesses, and J. Morris Flowers reopened as a floral design studio in a historic house in downtown Leesburg.
“The passion is so strong that I thought, ‘I really have to go back, and I’ve got to start it up again, because this is really what I was meant to do,’” she said. “I also feel like I left and there [was] a big hole in this community, where a business like mine could really thrive.”
Morris, 40, describes her business as a luxury florist shop with a European flair, specializing in events, weddings and signature arrangements for everyday occasions. She thinks Loudoun County is the perfect location for a high-end florist.
“I really feel like the D.C. area, and Loudoun County is where I was meant to be from a beauty standpoint, from a cultural standpoint,” she said. “There’s nothing I love more than working at a beautiful vineyard in Loudoun County. I am so drawn to this area.”
Her business is thriving, too, she said. She expects to provide flowers for 120 events this year, about 85 percent of which are weddings.
Morris, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, said she first developed a love of flowers as a child, helping her grandfather plant azaleas in his garden. Later, as a college student majoring in art history and French, she spent a semester studying in the French Alps. She found that the French had an appreciation for flowers that surpassed anything she had seen.
“Their sophistication and love of flowers is so far beyond what it is here in the United States,” she said. “Just the beauty of the formal gardens . . . the Tuileries in Paris, and then just the everyday joie de vivre, like, ‘We’ve got to have this as part of our table, part of our home.’ And it’s fresh, never silk. It’s never imitation flowers.”
Morris worked in marketing and event planning when she moved to the Washington area, and she soon felt the urge to start a business. “I always had this vision in my head that I would have my own business, and that it would be creative,” she said. After attending floral design school in Portland, Ore., she opened her business in her home in Reston before moving to Leesburg in 2004.
In 2005, her work was featured in Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, and more awards and recognition soon followed. J. Morris Flowers won the Bride’s Choice Award every year from 2009 to 2012 from Martha Stewart’s Wedding Wire Network. In 2010, it was named the Home-Based Business of the Year by the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce.
The studio is now in a house that was built in the 1870s and that used to be the parsonage for a Baptist church next door.
Morris is convinced that she and her family made the right decision to move back to Loudoun County. She is a visual person, she said, and draws inspiration from the beauty of the countryside, which occasionally brings tears to her eyes.
“This is a place where we have 40,000 people come for a flower show every year,” she said. “We have home tours and garden tours. We have formal gardens like Oatlands Plantation. This is like my little France. And I really sat there every day in Michigan thinking, ‘I’ve left so much undone.’ And . . . I had to come back.”
Jim Barnes is a freelance writer.