Sisters Jocelyne and Audrey Tuszynski fell in love with reading at a young age. As children, their mother would sit them and their other sister down and read to them from beloved classes, such as a red and floral bound copy of “Ferdinand the Bull,” the bright yellow “Amelia Bedelia,” and a pink and purple printing of “A Birthday for Frances” among many others.

These days, the sisters have expanded their tastes to include more adult reads, such as mysteries and thrillers. Even still, they carry with them some of the titles their mother used to read to them — only now, they bring them on a trailer in the hopes of sharing their love of reading with the greater Michiana area as traveling booksellers.

“One of the first things we did when we started this project was purchase all of the books our mom used to read to us,” Jocelyn says. “There is just something special about having a book in your hands — the look, the feel, even the smell of them. It’s a passion we have, and we wanted to follow that and share that.”

Audrey and Jocelyne opened Flourish Books and Plants in the fall. A traveling book and plant shop, the sisters operate their business out of a converted trailer outfitted with wood floors, bookshelves and comforting textiles to make customers feel like they are walking into a homey bookstore — that, as a bonus, sells at prices below major retailers like Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

“I think our generation really want to support small businesses, especially right now,” Audrey says. “We are trying to bring a fun, unique feature to our local community.”

Children’s books are currently top sellers, but the sisters work to keep Flourish stocked with many different genres to appeal to all readers.

In addition to selling both new and used books, Flourish sells potted, beginner-friendly plants. Since opening, the sisters have traveled from town to town, event to event, to showcase the trailer and share their love of reading and gardening with the greater Michiana area.

“Right from the beginning, we were texting each other, “let’s sell books. Let’s do plants,’” Jocelyne recalls.

Audrey got the idea to start open the traveling book and plant store last August, inspired by the fact that there are no independent bookstores in her hometown of New Buffalo. When she brought the idea to Jocelyne, it did not take much convincing to get the former college-employee, who was unsure about returning work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, on board.

“I said, ‘let’s open a bookstore,’ and immediately, [Jocelyne] said, ‘OK, let’s do it,” Audrey says, recalling the excitement of that moment.

“It was our pandemic passion project,” Jocelyne adds with a smile.

After deciding to take the plunge, the sisters got to work right away, converting a trailer of Audrey’s into a chic sales floor and collecting the appropriate permits to get their blooming business off the ground. Keeping the company family-oriented, they reached out to their cousin to design and print their banner and other branding materials.

So far, both Jocelyne and Audrey say the venture has garnered interest and loyal customers from across Michiana. They have sold at markets, outside of wineries, restaurants and boutiques. 

“I think when we started, our endgame was to eventually open a brick and mortar, but the draw is that we are on wheels,” Audrey says. “It’s just rare and different. It’s not something I’ve seen before.”

Along with their successes, the sisters have run into their share of obstacles in their first year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the markets they planned to sell at were canceled. Additionally, they could not sell at some farmers’ markets because they did not handmake the products they sell.

Despite the challenges they have faced, both Jocelyne and Audrey say it has all been worth it.

As Flourish extends into its second year of business, the sisters hope to grow their business both online and on the road. They advised that plant and book lovers keep an eye on their Instagram page to find them and their beloved trailer out and about. 

“I want people to love to read again,” Jocelyne says of her goals for this year. “Let us help you find your new favorite book.” χ