From seed to seller: This ‘farmer florist’ found her niche in Lee’s Summit business

Whether she’s busy planting and picking during the growing season, or ensuring that her customers find the perfect arrangement for Feb. 14 or other special days, Angela Turner is always busy. And that’s exactly how she likes it.

The 41-year-old owner and “farmer florist” of Bel Fiore Co. Flower Bar and Boutique in downtown Lee’s Summit is the chief planter, grower, weeder, harvester and designer of some of the freshest blooms in the business, the majority of which are grown locally on property leased from the Gardens at Unity Village in Lee’s Summit.

Turner is thriving, like the thousands of seeds and bulbs she nurtures every year. She uses “flowering” as a verb, as in flowering a wedding or a corporate event. Her shop features a flower bar where customers create their own bright bundles and can choose from a wide selection of gifts, nearly 80% of which come from other women-owned businesses, many local.

This Valentine’s Day, she’s busier than ever at Bel Fiore, a name that reflects Turner’s Italian heritage.

“What I love about flowers is that they can say the things we want to say when words are insufficient,” Turner said. “This Valentine’s Day we are honored to be able to help people say, ‘I love you,’ ‘You are the best friend a girl can ask for,’ ‘I’m thinking of you this Valentine’s Day, the first without your love,’ and so much more.”

Turner said she is one of only a few farmer florists in the Midwest. She strives to stock as much American-grown inventory as possible, and what’s in season is what’s on the menu. That means tulips in April — 7,400 bulbs’ worth this year — and peonies in May, not September.

Setting down roots in floral community

Beginning at age 15, Turner walked from school at Seventh and Douglas to Springtime Garden at Fourth and Douglas. Owner Vincent Scire trusted her with the register and handed her the keys on her second day.

Her history since has been a winding, or zig-zagging, path taking her from that local nursery to starting college with a horticulture major in mind (she ended with a business administration degree), and then through a 15-year career in Nashville marketing big-time country music artists. She started her first company at 23.

Very Violet Boutique owner Melissa Wuennenberg remembers when she first hosted Turner’s pop-ups, which grew larger and larger.

“Seeing her open a studio and continue to expand, create and teach floral arranging classes brought people in the community together. We are so fortunate to have her as a shop neighbor,” Wuennenberg said, adding that Bel Fiore offers a place in the community where “you just feel happy walking through those doors.”

Turner said she couldn’t have pulled off her business without her husband, Carl Turner.

“And he never once thought I was crazy” when she wanted to tear up the back yard to grow flowers commercially.

In addition to his full-time IT job, Carl Turner is the mind behind the company’s computer-controlled heat mats, its irrigation system and first walk-in cooler. His family was part the early development of Lee’s Summit: His great-grandfather owned the first garage in the city and his grandfather was the first optometrist.

“Lee’s Summit truly changed my life,”Angela Turner said.

When she worked at the nursery as a teenager, someone from the VFW hall next door would make sure her mother picked her up from work. A neighbor stopped by with a Dairy Queen treat. A customer with a giant Sonic soda returned with one for her.

“I was so touched by that I literally sat down and cried,” she said. “I realized I had moved to a place where people did care about one another and genuinely wanted each other to succeed. I feel like that spirit is still alive today in Lee’s Summit.”