In this ongoing series, ArtRat Gallery Social Media Intern Melody Hoffer explores the people, places and things that make our neighborhood great. Email ArtRat with feedback and suggestions about the topics you want to see us cover!
When Troy Shalom taught himself to arrange flowers during a stint with FTD, it planted the seeds for a creative partnership with his wife Michelle Allen — and a new business on South Division Avenue in Grand Rapids’ Heartside neighborhood.
Located at 313 Division Ave. S, Celebri-T Floral & Design joins a new crop of businesses between Bartlett St. and Goodrich St. SW: OTONO (317 Division Ave. S); Second Dance Bridal & Formal Consignment (319 Division Ave. S); The August Connection (325 Division Ave. S) and Cocoon Art Space (327 Division Ave. S).
In addition to Troy’s custom arrangements of natural and silk flowers, both Michelle and Troy collaborate on fluid acrylic paintings coated with resin. They also use the technique to create custom coasters and magnets.
“Neither one of us has an art background,” Michelle said. “We started with the flowers, and then we got into the painting. Then we were talking about making something smaller because not everybody has the money to invest in a giant painting. So then we started the coasters, and then the magnets.”
Their brick-and-mortar location is currently open by appointment only most evenings, and on the first and third Saturday of each month from 11am-5pm. (Besides their South Division location, you can find Troy and Michelle at Fulton Street Market’s ART! at the Market every second Sunday June through October.) The couple considers the work they individualize for customers to be “creative miracles” that reflect their Christian faith as well as visitors’ preferences. “Anybody can go to Walmart or Meijer to buy a set of coasters, but these are very unique,” Michelle said. “We want to use our customer side to be able to create things that fit for them.”
Besides focusing on seasonal flowers, Troy said, he works with clients’ aesthetic preferences. “I always tell people, ‘Give me a first, second and tertiary color,’ to have options that are in season.”
“Most of the time I go to Horrock’s [to source flowers] because I like their selection,” he said. “They have fresh flowers all the time. ‘They're pricey, but the way I do my arrangements. … I mean, I do luxurious. When it comes to our silk floral, a lot of people say, ‘Are those real?’ “
Michelle (a Grand Rapids native) and Troy (who grew up in Chicago) married in February 2020. “When we got home from our honeymoon, the very next day, everything shut down for COVID,” The years that followed were challenging, including a life-threatening case of COVID for Troy, lost income for both, and the challenges of keeping up payments on their home. (Both Michelle and Troy have experienced homelessness in their lives, and credit their faith for their successes.)
Celebri-T Floral was itself a leap of faith, as the couple sold their home to move downtown and invest in their business.
“We want our art to help our community,” Troy said. “We’re in business to make money, but we’re also in business to help others. We want to take the money we make and put it back into our community, into the people who live here. Celebri-T Floral & Design is just a platform that will be a hub of philanthropy.”
Michelle added that Celebri-T’s Heartside location is likewise a hub of the Grand Rapids community. “This area is where the west side meets the east side and the north. We wanted to make the move so that we’re working and living and playing in our community.”