Brother and sister entrepreneurs Natalia and Andrew Fernandez found a way to incorporate memories of their late father, Jose Fernandez, into their new business, Floravita Mankind Co. 

Natalia explained that the new company is formed by two entities, Floravita, which is the floral retail side, and Mankind Co., which is the men’s retail side. 

Both initiatives, under one roof on Cumberland Street in the Waterfront District, evolved from Natalia’s original business, Velvet Rope Floral, which originated in Goods and Co. The new space also serves as a consultation platform for her wedding and event clients. 

“Our dad grew up in Spain and was always such a huge supporter of anything my brother and I wanted to do,” she said. 

“We styled the men’s shop after him. We wanted that vintage vibe, that old gentleman kind of club feel.” 

The Mankind Co. side of the store features framed photos of Jose in his early years modelling sunglasses and watches and enjoying time with friends in a photo taken in Germany in what Andrew called his “Good Fellas” photo. 

“We set his liquor cart and glasses in the corner unit  under his photo in the central (retail) whiskey station where we have all of our whiskey rocks, glasses  and the whiskey smoking sets,” Andrew said. 

Across the room, through a classy selection of men’s grooming  supplies, ties and apparel, is their watch and sunglass retail display which is meticulously set up under the photo of a then 18-year-old Jose in classic black and white modelling pose. Two of his actual briefcases hold colourful argyle dress socks.

Through the mid-archway in the newly refurbished space are colourful fresh florals and giftware.

“Floravita translates to flower life in Spanish and that’s my way of honouring our dad over here on the floral side,” added Natalia. “One day the name just came to me and that day was what would have been his birthday — and  it just happened to be Spanish name as well.”

The pair renovated  the entire space without the help of grants or loans and were no exception to startup challenges. 

“It was definitely a big undertaking,” she said. “The cost of everything is going up. One of the biggest challenges was how to make this kind of vision come alive with the resources that we have. We didn’t hire a single contractor to do anything. We did absolutely everything here.”

She noted that in 2022, labour shortages were their “number one issue hands down.”

“I had anywhere from five to 12 people working on a weekend. But then trying to find somebody to do retail upstairs was a challenge. There were a lot of times where I had to close the retail shop on a weekend which killed me inside. But I had to pick one. I couldn’t be short staffed for a wedding,” she said. “That was a huge lesson that I learned doing this now. And that’s why I wanted to have a completely separate business so that I didn’t have to share stuff, so that no one had to suffer and so that we don’t have to have the doors closed here ever.”

Natalia says she wants people to experience the excitement that she gets  when doing weddings and events. An online shopping process is in the works and will soon be up and running for gifts, florals and event booking. 

“Now that we have a bigger space we’re going to start floral workshops probably after wedding season into the fall,” she said. “I love hosting events and that’s the European part of me.”

She added they are talking about different monthly events geared towards men which include bringing in a barber and highlighting beard care or having a gentleman’s night.

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 25, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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