“People send flowers to express an emotion, to say what they can’t say, or are not there to say…” -Ms. Janet Lye
The oldest flower shop in Toronto, Tidy’s Flowers, was established in 1877 by Stephen Tidy. Today, the shop is run by brother-sister team, Italo Paris and Ester Paris Mauro of Ital Florist. This dynamic duo acquired Tidy’s Flowers from another brother-sister team and third-generation owners of Tidy’s Flowers, Janet Lye and Jim Lye. This is the story of how Tidy’s Flowers was founded and how its great legacy lives on in Toronto many generations later.
Becoming S. Tidy and Sons Limited
In the late 1800s, S. Tidy and Sons Limited was a budding family-owned and operated business that would soon become one of Canada’s favourite floral traditions. From purchasing flowers for loved ones to celebrating little moments with breathtaking blooms, Tidy’s was the place to go. Not to mention, the superior customer service always had the town buzzing.
The founder of S. Tidy and Sons Limited, British native Stephen Tidy made his arrival to Canada in 1873. As a highly skilled gardener, he built and cared for a small greenhouse until he took the leap to open a retail flower business in Toronto. Stephen was virtually unstoppable as the floral shop triumphantly survived World War I, World War II, and The Depression.
With help from his three sons, Stephen, William, and Charles, who worked closely in the flower shop with their father, Stephen Sr., they established a second location for S. Tidy and Sons Limited in 1890. Shortly after, Canada was introduced to its first rose greenhouse, which was founded and managed by Charles Tidy. Following the success of his brother, William Tidy opened an additional greenhouse, further expanding the business. After Stephen Tidy Sr. passed away in 1896, his legacy continued in a third location, and the first official storefront for S. Tidy and Sons Limited was established in 1913, in what is now The Toronto Dominion Centre.
Introducing the Lye Family
Elliot Lye, the Godson of Stephen Tidy Sr., began his career in the floral industry cycling around the streets of Toronto as one of the city’s first couriers. For 23 years, he was a part of the S. Tidy and Sons Limited family, working his way up from delivery boy in 1910 and climbing the ranks until he was appointed to the board of directors in 1933. He managed and ran the Tidy’s storefront and eventually purchased the entire business in 1948, following the passing of Charles Tidy, the last of Stephen Sr.’s surviving sons. Elliot continued the shop’s legacy as a family-owned and operated company, still under the Tidy name. By then, the public grew loyal to Tidy’s and associated the name with wondrous floral arrangements, first-class service, and freshness and quality at every angle.
Growing Tidy’s with Relationships & Innovation
During his climb to the top of S. Tidy and Sons Limited, Elliot spent his hours establishing relationships with the carriage trade and forging a strong presence in the city as the florist for corporate Canada. When the time came for Elliot’s son, Nick Lye, to join the family business in 1951, he revolutionized the flower industry by implementing a centralized delivery system and relocating the shop to an 8,000-square-foot flower depot. Everything from accounting to floral design and distribution now lived and operated under one unified roof that escalated the business from a flower shop to a production centre. With his younger sibling, Douglas Lye, as his right-hand man, Nick purchased Tidy’s Flowers from his father in 1964.
Continuing the Tidy’s Tradition
As Nick prepared for retirement in 1983, his daughter Janet Lye and his son Jim Lye returned to their roots and took over Tidy’s Flowers. The brother-sister team took pride in the historic family business and incorporated its European style with a 21st-century business model. In 1997, they opened yet another storefront for Tidy’s Flowers, this time in downtown Toronto and catered to the “corporate elite.” Janet and Jim carried on the success of Tidy’s Flowers with passion and extensive business knowledge, and they always put their customers first. With these traits, they survived further devastating historical events, such as the ripple effects of 9/11 in 2001 and the SARS epidemic in 2003.
As they celebrated Tidy’s 130th Anniversary, the family looked back on all the business has celebrated and endured. Challenges in the world economy, jubilant historic events, such as watching the first man on the moon, and the flower shop’s very beginning from the hands of Stephen Tidy Sr. to his three sons, and Elliot Lye to his two sons and, eventually, his grandchildren, Janet and Jim Lye. We are proud and overcome with gratitude that Ital Florist is now a part of this remarkable family and extraordinary tradition.