Lia Bellanca, owner of Moonflower in Cobham
Mention Cobham to those who know the area and they’ll tell you that it’s undergoing a huge transformation, with new shops, restaurants and businesses opening on a regular basis. However, nestled in a corner of Anyards Road, opposite Oakdene Parade, proudly sits one shop that has brought colour to people’s lives for decades. For our sixth instalment of Elmbridge Icons let’s meet Lia Bellanca, owner of Moonflower - Cobham’s only florist.
I got my first job at Fleurs Amanda in Weybridge when I was just 15. I was the Saturday girl, but shortly after starting I knew that I wanted to be a florist.
When I was old enough, I went to college to learn the craft of floristry. I had completed the course at Brinsbury College Sussex, three years later. It was a bit of a commute but getting the best training was important to me and so worth it.
Shortly after completing the course I decided that I wanted a change and went to work for Freshte Moon at Moonflower. What a character. She was passionate about flowers and maintaining the highest level of standards – something that rubbed off and stayed with me ever since. She really took me under her wing.
By the time I was 20 I’d started to get the itch to move on, but Mrs Moon didn’t want to let me go so she offered me a partnership in the shop. It lasted a year before she saw the shop was in excellent hands and decided to retire. By the time I was 21 I was the sole owner.
At the time, I really didn’t want to own my own business. In fact, I rebelled against it, but it’s been one of the best things I ever did. I’m still good friends with Mrs Moon, too. She’s now in her 80s and lives in Spain, but we’re still in touch. I visit her with my partner and two children every so often.
The last few years have been challenging – particularly with Covid. In many ways, I’ve worked harder than I ever did. At one point I closed the shop in the belief that flowers would be the last thing people would be considering. I diverted the shop phone to my mobile, thinking I might take the odd call, but it never stopped ringing. It turns out that if people are going to be forced to stay at home, they want to be surrounded by things they can enjoy such as beautiful colourful flowers. I’m also very grateful to have so many loyal customers who helped support mine and other local business throughout the pandemic.
Flowers tend to experience peaks and troughs throughput the year and aside from peak times such as Valentines & Mothers Day, we have to be pro-active to stay front of mind for our customers. This where my team come in and they are second to none, so with orders of any scale, I always know that we’ll do a fantastic job. There are six of us now, some of which have been here since the beginning. I’m really grateful for that.
I’m really grateful to live in Cobham, too – and thankfully just behind the shop. Over the years I’ve seen it change dramatically. Right now there’s so much going on; the area’s really vibrant and it’s a place that people want to visit, so I’m very happy to be here.
I still love being a florist and I’m really proud of the shop and I know Mrs Moon is too.
Moonflower. 12 Anyards Rd, Cobham KT11 2JZ