Imagine a floral shop, bright and verdant.

Now picture a computer-repair shop, mechanical and gray.

Buds & Bytes in Farmington aims to be both, complete with a logo sporting a flower with a microchip center.

Unconventional, yet it all makes perfect sense to co-owners Chris Buckley and Vida Raine.

He did computer work, busiest on Mondays. She did floral work, busiest on Fridays. His busy season is opposite her busy season.

"Things really meshed together well," Buckley said.

The name came to them on a drive home from Duluth.

At the shop on Oak Street, where decorative vases mix with electronics on shelves, and a flat-screen television hangs on the side of a walk-in flower cooler, they each learn and lend a hand when the other needs it.

"Now he's kind of a better-than-average florist and I'm a better-than-average computer repair person," Raine said.

The couple opened the Farmington shop in August after relocating from Silver Bay, Minn.

They were searching for a place to raise their 5-year-old twins, Amelie and Nedda, and they landed in the Dakota County city after getting encouragement from Farmington officials looking to recruit businesses.

Buds & Bytes, which opened in August, was the first recipient of money through the city's new business development grant program.

Since Buckley and Raine received a grant -- $7,740 to help cover their lease for up to a year -- two other businesses have secured assistance from the city. A daycare and a tile and stone installer will each receive $15,000 for expansions.

The money comes from federal community development block grants aimed at improving job opportunities for low- and middle-income residents.

There is about $25,000 left to be doled out, and an additional $22,000 will be added to the fund in July 2009.

"The intent is to retain local jobs, to encourage existing business to expand and also to offer new job opportunities," said Tina Hansmeier, economic development specialist for Farmington.

The financial boost has helped Buckley and Raine, who had the dour economy in mind when they decided to open the combined business and pay to lease just one space.

"I think it's a fun idea to kind of get business up and running," said Ruthe Batulis, president of the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce. "Certainly I think we'll see more and more businesses share space, rents, leases ... over the next few months."

But the flower-computer combination has other benefits, too.

Buckley said both businesses have a chance to attract demographics they otherwise wouldn't. Plus, some customers who spring for a pricey electronics upgrade end up buying flowers to sweeten the explanation to their wives, Buckley said.

And there might even psychological effect on customers.

"People come in with their [broken] computer and they are distraught," Raine said. "I think the flowers help calm them."

Katie Humphrey • 952-882-9056