You could say it’s growing season for Ruby Chetty, the creative green fingers behind Ruby Kiss’s. It’s tucked away in a modest location at the Market Square Shopping Center in Plett, next to PnP. At a glance, the storefront reads like a plant nursery and florist; but it’s also a boutique, and not just of botanicals.
Unruly houseplants and tiny, prim succulents grow among cloth bags and orchids, bridal accessories, gift packaging (some fleamarket- sourced) and locally-made jewelry – all for sale.
“People who are not interested in plants but who are interested in looking for add-on gifts, handbags or trinkets— may end up buying a special plant,” she explains.
And roses play centre-stage at Ruby Kiss’s – you will find them on her company branding, in buckets and they are also featured on many of the trinkets in the shop. For her plants and flowers, she keeps a huge range of pot plant holders and a big range of vases, in many shapes and sizes. From Crystal all the way down to simplicity.
I watch her taking orders by phone, chatting with walk-ins and speaking with her husband of 45 years, who works in the shop with her. I see a smart businesswoman of South African Indian descent. She has rouged cheeks and lips, drawn back hair and strong graceful hands. She has a red flower pin in her hair, is dressed in red and black and has a penchant for rose cutting shears and her cellphone.
“I first came to Plett in 1995 during a Garden Route family holiday, my husband and I stayed at the Stromboli Guest House (now a retirement village). We took a stroll along Plett’s Main Street and popped into the last Agency where we met real estate agent Elton Chéze. We bought the 10th stand he showed us – on Dassen Island Drive, where we have built our home and guest house. We finally moved in, later in 2007 and have been a part of beautiful Plett since.” “I love new challenges,” she says. That and “the way flowers change all the time depending on the season. It allows me to be creative, this is a creative industry.”
Ruby admits she is inspired by what others choose off the internet, creating new designs, although she is not new to the industry. Ruby married very young, in 1974, and then had her first of three children in 1975 – Sagree. When Sagree was 9 months old, the family moved to Johannesburg.
She has garnered 40+ years of work experience and never allowed her background obstacles to define her. She attended college when her youngest was just a year old, where she learnt typing and general office work – Ruby was ready to enter the workplace.
Her first three jobs in the big city were with interior decorating companies. Here she gained valuable office work and customer relations experience. She continued with additional studies to get a firm footing in business, receiving her Basic Public Relations Certificate from Birnam Business College to become certified in computer programming and proficiency systems. She is also an IBM Certified Programmer.
She said, “I have a strong mindset, and having lived in an impoverished society growing up, I was already challenged. I was taught good values and our poverty made me determined to aim high and achieve. When asked how and why I chose Plett as my home?, I reply, I made my dream a reality.”
Customer relations and administration were strong points recognised by the companies Ruby worked for. In the 1990’s she was the only Indian woman to sell bicycles and work as a sales and marketing manager in the bicycle industry for the Raleigh Cycle Company. She started as the computer controller, found and filled needs in different departments and worked her way up the company ladder to national sales manager.
Rotarian Ruby Chetty began a journey with the Rotary organisation and remains active with the Plett club. She was the 2013/2014 Club President and currently holds the position of Community Officer and hosts an ‘Interact Club’ with children from Plett Secondary school. Always active in the community, she sits on the board of The Lunchbox Theatre Co, The Bitou Community Educational Trust ‘BCET’, Born in Africa and Plett Rotary.
Her plate is full. The Plett community approaches Ruby for donations throughout the year. From races to shows, or functions to funerals, she is always obliging to follow her commitment of duty. “My shop is like a second home,” she said. “It is home to secret treasures and a sense of mystery.” She strokes a wayward rose and gently opens its petals before we take a series of photographs. “They’re the most beautiful flowers.”
Ruby is her name and Kiss’s is an acronym for her 6 grandchildren, well for the first 5 and then the apostrophe when number 6 came along.
At this point, a woman enters to request a spray of flowers for a departed colleague’s funeral and has ordered an arrangement of white lilies. Ruby suggests greenery and additional flowers with splashes of yellow to add colour and contrast. The customer is delighted, she pays and confirms delivery details. And Ruby’s off to attend to the next customer, cellphone in one hand and a rose in the other.