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Business profile: Tanya Cherry, Owner of Prairie Floral & Gifts: Busy decorating life
December 18, 2015 Frank Marquez   

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Photo by Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Tanya Cherry, the owner and designer at Prairie Floral & Gifts officially opened her corner store last spring.

Becoming a flower shop owner wasn’t much of a leap for Tanya Cherry who earlier in her life worked as marriage and family therapist. Now, she helps floral customers make the most of momentous occasions to include weddings, graduations, birthdays, and funerals.

“I have always loved flowers, all my life,” said Tanya, who at 43 is the proud owner of Prairie Floral, which sits on the corner of O and 10th streets in downtown Gering. “I’m a helper, having been a therapist for a very long time; you meet people at their best and at their worst, from birth to death. I think flowers for me are the same type of thing. You’re still working with people at all the most important times of their lives.”

Before buying the shop, Tanya interned at Prairie Floral for a few years before completing a year-long online course with the Oregon-based Floral Design Institute, a program in which she learned about the styles, types, focus, and symmetry of floral design. “They take you step-by-step on how to create a vase, baskets, corsages, and funeral pieces. It’s not just the design of a flower arrangement, but the etiquette of being a florist, and how you treat people, and how you work with community.”

There were of course the practical matters of writing a business plan and working with funeral homes. “They want you to be prepared to go out and work or own your own shop,” Tanya said, explaining how the floral business connected to her prior life as a counselor. Tanya, who is still involved in counseling, teaches courses in psychology and counseling at Summit Christian College.

Running a business is in Tanya’s blood. She has come from a proud line of business owners and educators, and proves the apple doesn’t fall far. Her father Jim Prohs owned Prohs Furniture in Gering for several decades, mostly during Tanya’s childhood. After Jim Prohs closed his furniture store, he became a speech communications professor at Black Hawk College in Moline, Ill., until he retired and returned to Gering. Jim Prohs joined his parents, Dick and Dorothy Prohs in their business. Her paternal grandfather Dick, who worked on the Manhattan Project and served in the Navy, along with his wife Dorothy Prohs, joined his father Otto Prohs in the family business, Prohs Furniture.

Several stores were opened by Tanya’s great grandfather Otto Prohs and his brother. The stores were known as Prohs Bros.

Tanya planted the seeds of becoming a businesswoman not too long after she graduated from Gering High School in 1991. She was 19 when she married her husband Aaron, who was a soldier stationed in Texas. Both admitted they were too young when they tied the knot and went their separate ways about the time their first son Jerath turned one in 1994. Knowing she wanted to help people in some way, Tanya moved back to Gering to complete her degree in psychology at Chadron State College, graduating in 1998. She also worked part-time at the domestic violence center. Meanwhile Aaron moved to Tennessee to work full-time for that state’s National Guard. Today, he is an ROTC instructor at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. “We went to marriage counseling in the Army before we finally threw in the towel, and it was the worst thing we’d ever done,” Tanya said. “I made up my mind after seeing that marriage counselor, that exposure was more damaging than helpful. My goal was to be a counselor for the military. I wanted to work with them to maintain healthy relationships. It’s hard when you move like that, have no family, and no support system, nobody in place when you have issues like that. Having somebody to talk to would have been nice. I just thought, no wonder people aren’t staying together.”

In the summer of 1999, Tanya moved to Tennessee when her 7-year-old son Jerath wanted to get to know his father better. A year later, Aaron was offered a job here in Nebraska, and he had asked Tanya to join him. The couple returned to Gering later that year. Aaron took a job with the Irrigation District, and Tanya worked at Goodwill setting up its job retention program. Feeling older and wiser, and accomplishing some of their original career goals, the couple remarried on Jan. 1, 2001, and two years later had a second son whom they named Braydon. These days, both Jerath and Braydon can be seen working at Prairie Floral, running deliveries and carrying out sundry tasks, both sons making their mom proud for the comments they receive about their superb customer service.

Tanya was taught similarly by her own father. “We were never given anything,” she said. “We had to work for everything we had, even at home. We had very serious chores. We earned allowance. Our punishment was losing our allowance if we did things wrong. We were docked pay. That’s the same way it was in the furniture store. We would earn our way. I think that it helps me with my work ethic. It set me up to be a hard worker.”

Tanya’s mother Denise, who worked for the state of Nebraska for 30 years, also had a big hand in how her children were raised. “She saw to it that we were cared for,” said Tanya, referring to her two older siblings, Dodie, 45, and Aaron Prohs, 44. “She provided services to others. She was a good example for us.”

In starting the flower shop, “My mom and dad were very supportive and concerned. They played the devil’s advocate thing with me, just to look at how things could be. They were very involved in the process of purchasing it. My dad still makes me pay rent. There’s no exception. It’s business. He always says to me, ‘I’m going to raise your rent.
That’s another $50 bucks.’ ”

Since Prairie Floral’s opening in April and an official open house last month, it has brought in a steady stream of customers. “I can’t complain. We have had to do a lot of changing, dealing with growing pains, but we’ve had a lot of good support from the community. And we enjoy seeing people,” Tanya said. “Seems like once people come in, they come back. So that’s nice, we get to know people and build relationships. It can only get better. I have big hopes for downtown Gering.”

Tanya can’t imagine her business being anywhere else, reminiscing on how Gering was once a significant retail center and might be again. “I have great memories of going downtown, looking through the windows, and knowing all the business owners. I love Gering. This town is a gem. It has good people. It has character. It has a history. It’s nice to go down the street and say ‘hi’ to people. It’s nice to know the people you do business with, support the people you do business with. I have missed that tremendously, traveling around. You don’t get that same kindness in too many other places. You don’t get those same relationships.”

Aside from the inviting sights and smells of floral arrangements, the shop also offers items such as candles, chocolates, gift baskets, custom wreaths. Tanya added, “The biggest thing Prairie Floral has is customer service. Truly. I think being kind to people, standing behind your work. I think those things matter to people.”

Prairie Floral is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday.

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