Cynthia Baranski, founder and owner of Marylu’s Flowers and Gifts and Thee Wedding Center is often asked what her secret is when it comes to her stunning floral arrangements and her successful wedding consultation businesses.
According to her, from the time she was a child she had a love of beautiful things, including interior décor and floral design. That love of beautiful things was nurtured when she moved to New York as a young adult and was able to attend the many art and design museums there. Many of her ideas, even today, go back to the great works of art she studied. Once she returned to the Rio Grande, she attended every floral workshop she could and after that she studied floral design with Ralph Newell of Oklahoma University. Even then, her education was not complete, and she worked with an international award-winning designer on the West Coast, who introduced her to floral design styles and materials rarely seen here in the Valley. She still keeps in touch with him to this day. When pressed to give the identity of this designer, she jokes that this is a “trade secret”, but the certificates and diplomas found on her shop walls might lend some clues.
Her business acumen, she says, comes from her father. He was a broker for a major produce company here in the Rio Grande Valley, and would often bring home surplus produce. Cynthia would attractively package the produce and then sell it to her neighbors. She credits her dad’s early sales advice with many strategies that she still uses to provide win-win solutions to her customers today.
When it comes to floral design, Cynthia personally trains each of her associate designers in the same way she was trained. As a result they can produce any style of arrangement, from traditional, to natural, to highly innovative and contemporary. Her favorite style is Ikebana, an Asian design approach that combines exotic tropical flowers with accessories made from natural organic materials, such as decorative birds created from palm leaves.
In 1996 Cynthia took the plunge and started selling floral arrangements out of her one-bedroom apartment. In 1997 she took over a friend’s shop on Pecan and 12th in McAllen, named Marylu’s. The name Marylu’s is short for Maria Guadalupe, the virgin mother who appeared in Mexico in 1531. With its rising popularity, Marylu’s moved one more time in 2000 to its current location at the corner of Hackberry and 10th in McAllen.
Recently, the wildly successfully Thee Wedding Center was opened on the same corner. Thee Wedding Center is a full service wedding consultation center where brides and their families can access all the services they need for their wedding, including a small wedding chapel.