WINCHESTER – She had a rough start – fleeing from northern Iraq with just the clothes on her back and settling in a Turkish refugee camp – but now Tara Mahmud of Winchester’s newest business, Sandy Design, said she has finally found home on the village’s Main Street.

Tara Mahmud, a refugee from Iraq, recently opened her own flower arrangement and gift shop on Winchester’s Main Street called Sandy Design – named after Sandra Weagant, her Canadian sponsor. Press Photo – Gosselin

While in Turkey, she was forced to crawl from shop to shop trying to sell flowers for pennies – the only way to provide food for she and her son, Assan,

But she has gone from selling single flowers, to using her creative talents and creating elaborate flower arrangements for home and events in Winchester.

She arrived in Canada in 2000 with the hopes of starting a new life, and eventually found a job at Michaels in Ottawa, where she realized how much of a passion she had for flower arrangements and décor.

She eventually moved on to Winners, where she worked for 12 years, moving her way up to supervisor and becoming the go-to girl for designing the store’s flower displays and window arrangements.

Her love for the creative inspired her to take a course on floral design, which she completed in record time.

After living in Ottawa for several years, she decided to make the move back to Winchester recently, where her sponsors, Bob and Sandra Weagant, have been with her every step of the way helping her through the journey.

“They have been the light for me – they are my family, my angels – they are always there for me,” said Mahmud, with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know what I would do, or where I would be without them.”

She decided to name her business after Sandra, who Mahmud said has been like a mother to her.

“My whole life has been leading up this, and I feel I have finally found happiness,” said Mahmud. “Starting this business has been hard at first, but I know that everything happens for a reason.”

Mahmud creates flower arrangements, custom wreaths, home décor and gifts, and repurposed furniture at her business, which is based at her home at 444 Main St.

Sandy Design will be open Sunday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm for the summer, and 9:30 am to 3 pm for the rest of the year.