Alumna Sydney Garvey Channels Personal Trauma Into Blooming Flower Business
This article is from the fall 2023 issue of the University of Denver Magazine. Please visit the magazine website for additional content.
When Sydney Garvey (BSBA ’12, MA ’14) and her husband were plotting a move from the Front Range to the Western Slope, they zeroed in on an aging homestead on East Orchard Mesa, a rural stretch just a few miles southeast of Grand Junction, near Palisade, dotted with orchards, vineyards and bike trails. The first thing their realtor told them was that the farm needed to be leveled and rebuilt entirely.
Instead, Garvey and her husband worked to rehab the property, converting what once housed animals and 4H projects into a place primed for the 182-day growing season at the foot of Grand Mesa. What exactly she’d grow, though, didn’t become clear until personal trauma rocked her in 2020, when preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome resulted in the lost pregnancy of her daughter, Maeve, and nearly killed Garvey herself.
Recovering at home and sidelined from her chosen career of teaching, she returned to her undergraduate roots, leaning on what she learned at the Daniels College of Business. The path forward, however, had more curves than the single-track biking trails for which western Colorado is famous.
“I was barely living—and this was pre-COVID—and I had no freaking clue what I was going to do,” Garvey says. “Recovery was really rough, and I already had the year off from teaching for maternity leave. I knew I needed to do something, and I threw myself into a test garden and planted all kinds of things just to see what worked.” She signed up for an online garden design class on homestead gardening and, before she knew it, "Flowers were blooming like crazy."
It wasn’t long before the former alfalfa field was popping with buds of all kinds as Garvey experimented with what worked well in the soil. She cut bouquets for friends, then started selling them at the Palisade farmers market. Soon after, she moved to the larger farmers market in Grand Junction and offered bouquet subscriptions. Garvey eventually added weddings and even opened a small stand on the homestead—but admitted that its location was a little out of the way.
In the summer of 2020, a prime location opened up in Grand Junction, just one block off Main Street. After 33 years as a photography shop, a 936-square-foot commercial property went on the market. The small, rectangular building at 137 N. 5th Street had a red velvet carpet from its days as a bank drive-thru and, in the basement, the bank’s pneumatic tubes alongside remnants of a past life as a gas station. It was fringed by an aging red awning, and there was some graffiti on one of the exterior walls, but Garvey saw potential.
In October 2022, Garvey signed the lease and got to work with her husband on renovating the property. The carpet was replaced by laminate flooring. The awning was torn down in favor of a more modern, modular design, and the graffiti was wiped away. Garvey had begun training employees at her flower farm during the chilly winter months, but because of permitting and construction issues, Flowers by Garvey’s Gardens wouldn’t open until February 11—just three days before the floral industry’s most important holiday.
“It was a real trial by fire for me and the staff. Honestly, I kind of blocked it all out,” Garvey says with a laugh. “I really don’t remember a lot from it, but I know we made it through.”
Since then, they’ve made it through Easter and Mother’s Day, working well into wedding season. The business features 100% American-grown flowers, the vast majority of which are grown at her farm or sourced locally—which is rare in an industry that often relies on flowers shipped internationally. The businesses interior showcases sophisticated, high-end flower arrangements accompanied by a contemporary interior design scheme and locally sourced crafts.
Ultimately, Garvey says her efforts to mold her flower farm and shop into something that has taken root, if you will, stems from a lifelong love of learning, a trait cultivated at the University of Denver.
“I’ve always had a love of learning, in general, and the culture of doing something for the greater good,” she says. “It’s about supporting local, keeping on current trends and knowing that I don’t have to do everything myself. I have a great team helping me and an incredible network of people who have guided me along the way.”