JuLee Bowling decorated a Christmas tree in her floral shop as the family’s Siamese cat, Asia, watched attentively — perhaps hoping an errant ornament might roll his way to bat around.

Autumn colors also were abundant in the shop — seen in centerpieces that would work for any Thanksgiving table in JuLee and Gary Bowling’s shop — Designs by J, a new floral business at 312 S. Main St., Ottawa.

“I’m not ready to convert the shop entirely for Christmas just yet,” Bowling said. “I’m going to wait until after Thanksgiving.”

Bowling, a third-generation florist who has more than 40 years of experience in floral design, said foot traffic at the shop is starting to pick up since she and her husband opened the shop in early September. The couple converted the leased space to a floral shop in less than two weeks after the former tenant, a tattoo parlor, left.

“This was the perfect location downtown,” Bowling said. “There was even a drain in the floor in the back [needed for a floral business], so it was meant to be.”

Bowling said her great-aunt and uncle started Hanes Florist and Greenhouse in the 1940s downtown near the Marais des Cygnes River. After the flood of 1951, the business moved to 15th Street, and her parents took it over in 1969, she said. Butler’s Florist, now run by her nephew, remains on 15th Street today.

“I started working at the shop when I was in high school,” Bowling said.

After graduating from high school, Bowling attended a floral design school in Kansas City, Mo.

“I’ve been in floral design for over 40 years,” Bowling said.

Gary Bowling, JuLee’s husband of 20 years, qualified his wife’s statement.

“She is more than just a floral designer,” Bowling said. “She is a great designer.”

Health issues forced Bowling to leave her floral designer position with Butler’s Florist a couple of years ago, she said. When she was ready to go back to work, she said, her position had been filled, so she and her husband decided to open their own shop downtown.

Designs by J is a full-service florist, and Bowling said her speciality is weddings.

“But I also do sympathy, special events and home decor,” she said.

The shop carries a variety of flowers, plants, arrangements and gifts, Bowling said. The shop is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except Wednesday when the shop stays open until 7 p.m. The business also is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

“I usually make appointments on Saturday afternoons to go to people’s homes” for the home decor and floral creations side of her business, she said.

Bowling said she plans to offer extended hours in December for the holiday shopping season. She said evergreen arrangements with candles are popular at Christmas time,

“I still have people come in every day who say, ‘I didn’t know you were here,’” Bowling said. “I think business will pick up once more people know we are here. It takes time.”

Designs by J offers free delivery in Ottawa, Bowling said.

“We’ll also deliver outside of Ottawa for a minimal charge,” she said. “We’re serving pretty much all of Franklin County.”  

Gary Bowling, who works part-time for the Ottawa Recreation Commission maintaining the Ottawa Community Recreation Center/Goppert Building at 705 W. 15th St., Ottawa, handles the deliveries as well as helps his wife around the shop. He was busy Monday working on the business’ giant floral cooler, which the couple recently purchased from a floral shop in Lenexa that had gone out of business.

“We add a little more to the shop each day,” he said.

Bowling said she always has loved her job and is enjoying working for herself.

“I love seeing all the people downtown and hearing the courthouse and church bells,” she said. “It’s a great location, and we’re really pleased to be here.”

Doug Carder is senior writer for The Herald. Email him at dcarder@ottawaherald.com