Techla Fish and Travis Mix have had some ups and downs during the pandemic. On a sad note, they have lost family. They also have gotten sick with COVID-19, twice. In short, this has been a trying time. Still, there has been something good during this time. They started new businesses.
A flower shop, called Uptown Floral, and a game store, Game Forge, occupy side-by-side storefronts on Sixth Street in Umatilla.
They are not new to business, as they have owned stores in the past. Fish even grew up in a florist family, as her mother and grandmother had a shop under the same name she has for her store.
It is a family tradition, she said. Advised by her sister on the name Uptown Floral, Fish said the store had to be named after her family’s old store.
“It could not be any other way,” she said.
The pair had been working. Fish was employed at H&R Block. Mix was at Amazon. During the pandemic, they were suddenly unemployed. And it was during this time, they started thinking about what they wanted to do with their lives — not what they had to do, but what they wanted to do.
They wanted to follow their passions, so that is what they did.
They took their savings and money from pandemic checks, and they put it into a new business. They started the floral business first, placing it in their garage. It was a safe bet, they figured, because Fish had a lot of experience. Also, a major florist in the area was closing, which would mean less competition. They knew it would not take long to develop a clientele.
They were right. Business took off, Fish said, and they quickly built a solid customer base. This allowed them to purchase leases on the two spots in Umatilla, stores that would be next door to each other.
Fish was ready to move her flowers into the building, so it opened first, around October/November 2020. It took a little longer for Game Forge, because Mix still had to build an inventory. Its grand opening was July 17.
“These are vastly different businesses,” Fish said. She spends her days arranges bouquets, while her husband sells games and organizes game events next door.
Still, they enjoy being close to one another. Their stores are joined by a door in the back. They even share a bathroom.
“That part can be a little stressful, actually,” Fish said, laughing about the bathroom.
Mix said one of the best things about this arrangement is being close together and to their son, Rodger, who spends much time in their stores.
“It’s really, really fun,” Rodger said. Spending time in the store, he gets to play games and paint miniatures. He also likes meeting customers and recommending games, such as Zombie Kids, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic and Small World.
Mix said he enjoys doing something he likes — working for himself, rather than working for someone else.
A gaming fan, he is surrounded by Risk, Dungeons and Dragons and more.
“I like board games,” he said. “Now, I don’t have to spend much money on them.”
One other bonus: He buys games for himself at a discount.
But Mix also said he is happy to contribute to his community. He likes to provide fun for people who might not otherwise have much to do. At his shop, he hosts various gaming tournaments and activities. Some days, people even bring their televisions and consoles to play at tables in Game Forge.