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Dear PoPville – Would You Go To a New Flower Shop?

by Prince Of Petworth July 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm 46 Comments

Photo from PoPville resident Jessica

“Dear PoPville,

A friend is thinking about opening a flower shop in DC, but we’re wondering how many people actually use a neighborhood florist anymore? I buy fresh flowers for my house every week, but can get great bouquets for $10-12.00 at the grocery store, farmer’s market or even street stands. Several friends have made their own wedding flowers with simple Ikea glass vases and cut flowers from Costco.

So the questions are – do you regularly buy flowers? Where? If you want to buy flowers for a special occasion, birthday, dinner party etc. would you go to a florist? If you’re at the office feeling bad about an argument with your spouse do you call a florist and send flowers or pick up something on the way home? Does your office still get regular flower arrangements for the reception desk or has this been cut to save money?

Does anyone regularly patronize an actual stand-alone neighborhood flower shop like Flowers on 14th or Little Shop of Flowers?”

  • WDC

    I buy flower arrangements a couple times a year. And yes, I do go directly to a local florist. (I avoid FTD or flowers.com or those vendors that just farm the orders out to a local shop and then take a cut.) But I never spend more than $50, and that’s twice a year.
    So, that is to say… I can’t see it working out so well.

  • jules

    It depends on a lot of things … I get bouquets at the farmer’s market because they’re relatively inexpensive ($8 for what would cost me $15 or $20 at a florist). If costs are low, I would certainly consider going, but even then probably not more than a few times a year.

    If, however, you sold more than flowers — say you combined the florist with a garden supply shop that also sold apartment-friendly clay pots, tools, small bags of potting soil, seeds, potted herbs, etc. — then I would be much more likely to go.

    And I haven’t seen a bouquet at a receptionist’s desk in the US (outside of high-end hotels and airport lounges) in a LONG time.

    • textdoc

      Was thinking the same (re. not seeing bouquets at front desks). In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve _ever_ seen a bouquet in an office-type environment.

  • j

    Whole foods is my florist.

  • Andy(2)

    I send flowers a few times a year and use a local shop every time. Could your friend combine it with something else?
    Small gifts? cards? coffee? magazines & used books?

    I’m picturing a shop with a glass garage door that has great hand-pulled esspresso, a great selection of affordable flowers (few potted plants) and a small newstand and card selection. Location – residential versus offices?

    • Back on the Hill

      Oooooh. This would be lovely.

    • Lisa

      Yeah, do a floral shop/yoga studio/flip flop store. They’ll just LOVE it.

  • PetworthRes

    I think you’d have much better luck if in addition to being a florist shop you also sold houseplants and garden plants (like Johnson’s). I agree as a florist only you’d have a lot of competition.

  • LCM

    Flowers on 14th regularly draws me in by displaying their flowers outside. I don’t think I would ever by myself a bouquet if it weren’t sitting outside where I literally have to walk right by it. That being said, I buy flowers from Trader Joe’s and Yes MUCH more often than at any florist.

    Also, I still think there is money to be made in arranging flowers for weddings. This is something your friend should consider.

  • Anon

    I would be in a shop like that all the time!

  • cj

    Okay, I’m a designer so as an aesthete I’m really excited about what something like this could be.

    I mainly use Whole Foods for flowers since they’re always in good shape, but a little expensive. I used a florist for my wedding, but that’s about it and I kind of wish I didn’t do that. I miss Garden District because I’d love a place to buy small plants, pots, and a small amount of soil for plants I keep in my apartment and office.

    I think if you had a unique business model and really focused on being a “crafty” or niche type of florist you might do really well with design-conscious youngsters, crafters, and locals. If you had a lot of fresh and affordable things that people could just pick up on their way home to their loved one, that’d really turn my head. Cool flowers, small plants, maybe even a small section of hand-made cards and chocolates or something. Throw affordable weekend workshops on top of that and I’ll put up some capital! Seriously!

    • anon

      I agree with this. I’d love a Garden District replacement with flowers too, and as mentioned above, coffee!

      • Lisa

        ROFL, Ahhh heck add a yoga studio to that floral shop and coffee too.

        (rollin’ eyes)
        Seriously people, get a grip.

  • MtPer

    I buy flowers regularly from farmers markets and whole foods. I would buy them regularly from a florist if the selection were as good and the prices comparable. Many florists in town offer standard ftd bouquets – me, I typically buy bunches of same flowers: tulips, hydrangea, lillies and would appreciate a florist with greater variety than others in DC that felt more like a flower stand at a market.

    Come to Mt. Pleasant!

  • da poo

    the neighborhood florist on H (nouveau fleur)has the best reviews ever on yelp. you might want to have a chat with them…

  • anony

    open the shop next to a funeral palor

  • LisaT

    I buy fresh flowers occasionally, and typically from a store I’m in for other reasons (grocery). If I need an arrangement, rather than a loose bouquet, I’d definitely go to a flower shop. The man doesn’t bring me flowers as often as he used to, but my last batch for our 10th in April came from the new(ish) florist on Kennedy. He tends to buy them from mainly florists, second would be grocery stores.

    Our office reception desk does not have flowers unless someone sends them (though most of us like it better when they send Edible Arrangements :p), but the main desk in the lobby of our building gets two huge fresh arrangements delivered once a week.

    The wedding suggestion is a good one. A lot of people go DIY, but there are also plenty who hire pro florists.

    Your friend may also look into focusing on fair trade/ethically harvested/environmentally safe flowers. That industry is starting to get as much attention for human rights abuses and pollution as the diamond, chocolate, etc industries, and going high end and fair trade may pay off.

    • C

      Your last point is a good one – a business that focused on sustainable/environmentally friendly practices would offer something that most competitors (like 1-800-flowers) wouldn’t, and could justify paying a higher price than you would pay for grocery store flowers.

      • cj


      • MtPer

        Source from Wollum Gardens! They have the best flowers at the market

      • Lisa

        @C…”sustainable/environmentally friendly practices would offer something that most competitors (like 1-800-flowers) wouldn’t”

        So, let me understand. There are environmentally friendly flowers !!??
        Would they be located next to the environmentally friendly dirt ??

  • Tiffany

    As much as I love going and grabbing flowers at the farmers market I find they die pretty quickly. My friend in NYC told me about HBloom and I recently found that they opened a branch on HStreet. Basically they send me a GOREOUS bouquet once a week for about $35. You can easily order online at hbloom.com

    • Lisa

      I can’t believe HBloom is still in business. Last I heard they were hanging on by a thread, preparing for bankruptcy.

  • another area

    I love fresh flowers every week in my house but usually just go for the convenience of the guys outside of a metro stop. I think location of the shop would be a huge determinant. Most people who buy their own flowers are just looking for a quick/cheap buoquet and not something more professional. When I send stuff I just use FTD becuase its convenient. I think if you could incorporate more houseplants/lawn/garden items them the store would be more of a destination spot. Please consider something near the petworth metro too :-)

    • Rosie

      yep, they are super cheap too.

  • C

    If I’m sending someone flowers, I’d use a local florist rather than a website. I’d also use a florist for arrangements for an event/reception/wedding. I think most people get large-scale arrangements like that done professionally. Focusing on events, particularly the wedding industry, might be a good bet, I’d think?

    Other than that, though, I wouldn’t buy an individual arrangement for myself – something like that I’d get from a stand or a grocery store and put together myself. I’m cheap.

    Also, my office does get a huge fresh arrangement delivered every week for the reception area, and my building has large weekly arrangements in the lobby. I have no idea if those are from a local florist or some kind of national corporate flower delivery service, however.

    • anonymous

      interesting. I only really send flowers to people out of town and I’m usually crunched for time so I have to go with teleflora or whomever.

      • C

        Yeah that makes sense. I guess I only send flowers to people locally or back in my hometown (ie my mom), both of which I use local shops for.

      • WDC

        Go to google. Type “florist dubuque iowa”. Local business results will appear above the fold. Call one, talk to the lovely helpful person who answers the phone. Hang up five minutes later, having gotten a nicer arrangement for less money.

  • Anonymous

    What you should do is contact some churches in the area, and see whether they have flowers in the sanctuary during their service.

    • Florista

      Floral designer here, 20+ years experience: churches either a)never have any money, or b)never want to spend any money! Don’t waste your time, since they will find YOU. Hope the friend has done plenty of his/her homework; this is One Tough Industry.

  • Emmaleigh504

    It makes me happy to read about all you who regularly or often have flowers in your home. One day I hope to be one of you.

    • Anonymous

      It really does make a difference—I love coming home to fresh flowers in the house. I’m content with a bunch from WF or the vendor on the street. They last 1-2 weeks and then it’s time to spend $10 on a different bunch of flowers.

      • Emmaleigh504

        I’m just not responsible enough yet. The few times I’ve had flowers I forget they are there and then there’s a mess when they rot in the vase.

  • M

    I am a floral designer in DC, and having worked at a very well to-do studio/flower shop, I will say that you will have a LOT of competition in this city, against other walk-in shops, as well as boutique studios.

    I assume that your friend has worked for a shop before and has done her homework in terms of what the operational costs are and how difficult it is to beef up a customer/client list. Most small flower shops cannot survive without incorporating some sort of wire-service for their customers and/or being in a highly trafficked area coupled with regular weekly account clients like restos, churches and weddings, etc.

    I know a lot of people who are still devoted to local/neighborhood shops for small flowers and designs, but in terms of price, you cannot beat Whole Foods and their selection for boring mass flowers and fillers. They buy directly from a wholesaler in the area. The only thing bad about a grocery store or Costco is that the people who handle the flowers usually don’t know how to care for the plants or design them, in turn shortening their lifespan. You are also welcoming a very limited selection in variety at stores like that, whereas at a shop, you might be able to spring for more expensive blooms and plant material. The question becomes whether or not your client base can afford it.

    Also, if anyone needs a wedding designer, please let me know!!

    • Florista

      Another floral designer – Plus + 1,000,000,000!!!

    • Lisa

      “a very well to-do studio/flower shop”

      F-A-N-C-Y!!! Do tell.

  • L

    You should call a florist near who you’re sending them to, and ask them to arrange loose flowers for you, specifying types, colors, etc. I prefer doing that because how many FTD vases does someone need, and in my experience, the receiver gets a much nicer bouquet this way.

  • SF

    I wouldn’t mind spending more money on flowers, but they need to be a) cheap and b) convenient. The only time I have every bought them is from a bucket outside of a metro station. Or when I lived in NYC, from those awesome flower stands all over town.

  • Just a reminder: Petworth has a relatively new neighborhood florist. Mother Virginia Flowers & Gifts is at Georgia & Allison (SW corner) and they even have a website (http://www.mothervirginia.com/).

    I have been in there twice in the past few months, and it was great. They had seasonal flowers (which I infer were locally sourced), and they put a lot of them in bunches for me with nice decorative wrap, and they didn’t charge me a lot of money.

  • Anonymous

    The only time I buy flowers is when guests are coming over, and then I just go to the closest place I can find. But a store that also had small plants, pots, annuals, etc. would be a great alternative to Home Depot for the home gardener.

    Add gardening and flower arranging classes, and I would definitely go out of my way to shop there.

  • andy

    I’ve bought a couple times from Whole Foods, and I think once from Caruso this year.

  • MaryEdith

    It would probably be impossible with DC liquor licensing, but one of the most lovely bars I’ve ever been to was in Paris and called “Bar Fleur”–it was half flowershop/half bar. They had only (mostly house-infused) vodka and champagne. It smelled divine, but I honestly can’t say I was tempted to buy the plants. Still, DC seems to go for novelty so it could possibly be a thought.

    I agree that I’m not likely to purchase from a shop unless they are incredible arrangements (I love Helen Olivia in Old Town), or had gardening items (especially now that Garden District has closed).

  • wow

    wow, maryedith, that sounds great. I wonder if someone could get a liquor license with a flower shop…although I guess you would have to also serve food too. Maybe a combo wine store/flower shop. And yes, DC loves a novelty it could probably work.

  • dp

    If I’m buying for the house (maybe once a month) it’s street stand or grocery story. If I’m buying as a gift for someone (maybe once a quarter) it’s florist. Side note – my great aunt owned a florist shop and I’ve always thought that if I won the lottery or had a more secure line of income from other investments, I’d open a flower shop. Think it would be the most peaceful and enjoyable place to work.

  • Anonymous

    If I walked past a nice flower shop with reasonable prices, I would by flowers on a regular basis (and maybe my husband would too :-) ).


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