BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - If you’ve ever walked into Anything Floral you would have most likely encountered the driving force behind the 25-year establishment, Cheri Pertesis. The proprietor and head designer is so busy and energetic that she never sits down, literally. There are exactly no chairs in the designing area at Anything Floral; it is business only in the back room, but in the pursuit of beautiful arrangements. Pertesis and Hilary Boothby are hard at work most days designing arrangements, planning weddings and tending to their in-house boutique.
Pertesis swung open her doors 25 years ago in the hopes of starting a business with her mother. She left the corporate world in search of a life that was not an unrelenting pursuit of the bottom line for a corporation. Her chosen profession at the time was about as far as you can get from a hand-tied wedding bouquet or an Aquarium themed Bar Mitzvah, “I was in Management Information Systems, with a background in everything computer related. I worked for IBM coming right out of school."
Pertesis was looking for more out of life than a desk and computer. “I’m not the person who can sit behind a desk and stare at a computer 24/7." After a little soul searching with her mother, she decided that opening a flower shop was her destiny -- and she was off and running.
Her brother found the space from an ad in the Independent Press. An existing florist called “Buds and Bows,” was leaving and her now thriving business opened its doors. Pertesis wanted to be first in the phonebook, so one evening while out with friends she tasked them to come up with possible names that start with an “A.” Written down on a cocktail napkin that night was; Anything Floral.
She left her corporate job on a Monday and opened the doors to Anything Floral on Thursday, which just happened to be Mother’s Day weekend in 1993. Pertesis was thrown in to the deep end and began swimming.
Over the years she has consistently adapted and transformed her business to suit her personal passion, which is designing events, whether they be weddings, showers, Bar Mitzvahs or sweet sixteens. “Events are what’s fun for me, you’re coming up with décor and a theme. I love that level of creativity. Give me a room and tell me 'transform it into a safari,' that’s what I love, that to me is challenging, I want to use my artistic ability,” said Pertesis. She prefers lead-time, but was able to pull off a big Safari themed Bar Mitzvah in less than a month.
At the beginning, Pertesis was partnering with her mother. “My mom was supposed to be my partner, my mom helped me get it started. She was just in the process of closing her salon of 35 years to join me full time, but unfortunately as she closed her store, a month later she found out she had lung cancer,” said Pertesis, clearly still affected by the history of the moment. “She was never actually able to work with me full time, she worked with me in the time frame, but she passed away two years later,” recalled Pertesis.
Working along side her now is Hilary Boothby, a designer and the manager of Anything Floral. Boothby joined Anything Floral as an apprentice in 2002 and also just happens to be Pertesis’ step-daughter. They clearly have a close easy-going relationship. In fact, they both met their husbands at Anything Floral, so love is clearly in bloom at a flower shop. They both have the gift and the ability to adapt, “I really like establishing relationships, people who may only buy a bouquet, but that leads to their daughter's wedding, or their kid's bar mitzvah,” said Pertesis.
Whether they are decorating for a bar mitzvah at Yankee Stadium, taking over the entire Adventure Aquarium in Camden for a bat mitzvah, or throwing a wedding at the Mandarin Oriental in NYC, Pertesis and Boothby can handle 200-300 people easily which surprises some considering their mom-and-pop status in Berkeley Heights. “People are afraid to give us a budget -- don’t be. Just tell me what you want to spend and I’ll tell you what you can get,” suggests Pertesis.
“When I first started here, I was a traditional florist with home décor, and over the years I had to define my niche. We turned over the space to more of a boutique. I have to stay with the times, I carry lines that no one else can carry, I’m the only one carrying these products around here,” said Pertesis. The meticulously curated gift shop is another aspect of Anything Flowers that Pertesis and Boothby have spent time carefully choosing. They both take time out to go to the shows to pick out each line they carry. Her store is filled with an eclectic selection of gift items not available in surrounding stores. They carry an ever-changing selection of clothing, hand made purses, scarves, candies and cookies, hand towels, hand-poured candles, bath and beauty items, beaded and leather bracelets and necklaces, pendants, soaps, bangles, and of course wreaths and flowers.
Pertesis and Boothby are also the architects and choreographers of the Berkeley Heights Winter Walk since its inception in 2015. They, along with a few other members of the business community, got together to try to energize the community around the local businesses in town. Anything Floral became the nucleus of the event as it developed over the last three years, it now attracts thousands of families from Berkeley Heights and the surrounding towns.
Pertesis is quick to adjust to the ever-changing world of business and flowers, “It’s harder than ever before because now it’s trendy to do it yourself, but we are constantly adapting." All the work is worth it to her, " I get up every morning and even 25 years later, I love coming to work. I know there are so many people who get up and hate getting on that train to go into the city or they hate what they do, but I still love what I do, I love every aspect of it.”