The Rose Lady is back in bloom.
From 1985 until her death in 2018, Debbie Orban-Rosen ran the Rose Lady, a flower store that was an eclectic landmark at 3921 West Colfax Avenue. After she passed, two of her three daughters operated the shop for a while, then closed it after Valentine’s Day 2019.
But just before this past Valentine's Day, one of those daughters, Daniele Riopelle, reopened the shop as Roselady Co., in honor of her mother.
“It's kind of one of those things when you're a kid growing up in your parent’s business where you're like, ‘I'm never gonna do flowers. I'm never gonna do that,’” Riopelle says. “Then, about a year ago, one of my best friends was getting married, and I ended up doing her wedding flowers and…realizing that it was something that I really did enjoy.”
That friend was Gabby LaBarbara, who's joined Riopelle as a partner in the new venture. On her wedding day, she watched Riopelle setting up the flowers while she was getting her hair and makeup done, and she knew her friend needed to get back in the flower game. “I was looking through the window into the backyard, and I could see her out there living her best life with the flowers,” LaBarbara recalls.
Despite the update, the duo is honoring the past, too, celebrating the family history in the area.
Debbie Orban had started selling flowers on street corners and outside of banks downtown before opening a physical shop across from the building that now houses Roselady. She also worked with hospitals, striking deals where she sold them plants and flowers and donated back some of her profits.
In the early 1990s, she married Jerry Rosen. The building she leased for her shop, like much of the property in the immediate area, had been in his family since 1919. Orban-Rosen brought not just her love of flowers, but her daughters, including Riopelle, into the family fold.
At the time, Jerry's parents ran Rosen's Delicatessen, which had opened back in 1945 at 3921 West Colfax, and lived next door. By the late 1990s, both of them had passed away. Orban-Rosen moved the Rose Lady into the former home of the deli.
Though she didn't have formal floral training, Riopelle says that her mother had always been a creative person and took to it naturally. "She just had a really good eye, and she could look at something and then re-create it," she says.
“She just started to diversify and tried to offer more services that people needed,” Riopelle recalls. That diversification saw her open a bail bonds shop across the street. She added a cremation business next to the flower shop, along with a barber shop, a hookah lounge, a tattoo shop and a nail salon in the same strip. In the 2000s, Riopelle opened a medical dispensary there, too.
“She was very hands-on in everything that she did,” Riopelle says of her mother. “If she was interested in something, she would do the research. She even went to barber school and nail school so that she could really understand the business and grow the businesses.”
Riopelle's sister moved her law practice into the space where Rosen's parents once lived, right next to what is now Roselady. A few doors down, Kaya Cannabis leases space from the family, and the family rents out booths in the nearby tattoo shop. There’s a new deli across the street, where the family has leased most of its property.
Art was important to Orban-Rosen. Roselady and the bail bonds shop are covered with murals of baby angels, which Riopelle says her mom loved. She remembers street artists coming in and asking if they could paint on the building and her mother always saying yes, despite the fact that the city didn’t always appreciate the work.
“She had a really amazing story in the community and always was kind of seen as a staple,” Riopelle says of her mother.
While this part of Colfax has gone through some rough patches over the years, Orban-Rosen always insisted that it would be hip one day. And that prediction is coming true, with the developments south of Sloan's Lake and the promise of a revived Casa Bonita to the west.
“It's kind of sad, in a way, because my mom isn't here to see how much it's changed,” Riopelle says. “But at the same time, it is really amazing to see.”
LaBarbara never got to meet Orban-Rosen but says she feels like she’s getting acquainted. At least once a day, someone comes in and says that they knew and loved her, sharing a story about a time when Orban-Rosen helped them out or made them smile. A customer recently told LaBarbara that after she heard the shop had reopened, his grandmother made him promise that her funeral flowers would be from Roselady.
“We always joke that her mom is still a hustler around here," LaBarbara says.
Instagram. Roselady also offers custom boxes with flowers, jewelry and other items handpicked by Riopelle and LaBarbara for every occasion, from birthdays to bad days.
“Something that you would buy from us is not your traditional product,” Riopelle says. “I get to know [clients] and their personalities, so when they tell me what they're looking for, I can help envision, and create, what they're really wanting.”
Riopelle has three children, two of whom still live with her. She remembers growing up around the shop with her sisters and bringing her oldest daughter in when she was young. She’s grateful that her other children will have that same experience, coming to Roselady on weekends or after school.
“It's really come full circle,” she concludes.