Monday, May 2, 2016

Mahonia: Portland's loss is Louisville's gain

A little over a year ago my friend Bridget moved to Louisville, Kentucky. Some of you will no doubt recognize the name, she was my gardening neighbor and a garden designer, she also worked as a floral designer at New Seasons. Some of you also know she opened a retail location on March 4th of this year. It's killing me that I can't pop over and visit whenever I want. But since that's not possible, Bridget was kind enough to send me several of photos of her shop, and answer some questions. This is the first time I've done an interview style post, I hope you enjoy!

Loree: My readers know you as a floral designer and garden designer. Can you tell us a little more about your background and how you came to be involved in both of these worlds? Is one more compelling to you than the other? 

Bridget: I have had a love of plants and flowers since I can remember. I started out making floral arrangements and wreaths at home. But my career in all things green really began when I left a lucrative job in the restaurant business to work in a flower shop for $8.50/hr. I never looked back. Managing a floral shop led to working in/managing nurseries and garden stores. I love container design – it’s a natural progression from designing in a vase to balancing texture and color in a pot.  Once the passion for plants really took hold, I spend countless hours researching plants and design and began designing small gardens for family and friends.
In regards to garden design vs. floral design, I find that one is not more compelling than the other. I seem to find ways to do both! That is why Mahonia is so great – it’s a culmination of many of the things I love.

Loree: You’re a native Oregonian, but what other areas have you lived in? 

Bridget: I’ve lived in California, Rhode Island, Virginia, Georgia, Oregon, and now Kentucky. But I’ve lived most of my life in Oregon and consider it my home.

Loree: What took you to Louisville? And what’s your read on the city now that you’ve been there for over a year? 

Bridget: My wife has family in Louisville and St Louis. We had been talking for a couple of years about the possibility of moving closer to her family. At the same time, I had been dreaming of opening a business. I did a lot a research (once I landed on a business concept – see below), and discovered that there was not a really boutique-style store in Louisville to get flowers, plants, air plants, terrariums, etc. So Mahonia was born.
I love Louisville! It has such a great mix of hometown flavor and big(ish) city. The people here are really friendly, there are gorgeous green spaces, great coffee and food, and a thriving small business culture. Sound familiar?

Loree: So…opening a retail shop is a huge undertaking, has this been a dream of yours for a long time?

Bridget:Yes! I have always wanted to have my own shop. Although, with so many interests I was never quite sure what it would be, until now.
And ‘huge undertaking’ is an understatement! The other day someone said to me that entrepreneurs are the only people who quit their 40 hour a week job to work 80. So true! Now if I could just get that down to 80… Ha! I’m only partly kidding. But really, there’s nothing like it! Being your own boss and calling all the shots (especially creatively), rules.


Loree: How lengthy was the timeline from the “I’m really going to do this” moment to Mahonia’s opening day? Did you have doubts or just felt sure in your decision and full steam ahead?

Bridget: It took me almost a year from start to finish. But full disclosure, I started out thinking I was going to open an appointment-only floral design studio. Once I landed on my retail store concept, the lengthy part was finding our retail space. But it was worth the wait! We have a fabulous location in Nulu on East Market.
And I did have doubts, many in fact, along the way. Opening a brand-new business, in a brand-new city, all by myself (sort-of – Mary helped A LOT), was terrifying. But I believed in my brand, believed in what I was selling, and mostly believed in myself. Once I took the leap, I never looked back.

Loree: Can you describe the Nulu neighborhood, where Mahonia is located?

Bridget: Nulu is a portmanteau meaning “New Louisville”. Nulu is a close-in, vibrant neighborhood with shopping, galleries and fabulous restaurants. Most of storefronts are 100+ years old and full of character. If I had to compare it to something in Portland, I’d say it’s a lot like a mix between The Pearl District and Mississippi Ave.

Loree: And please describe your vision for Mahonia, what is it all about?

Bridget: My vision for Mahonia is to provide an environment where people can find plants and flowers approachable.  Many folks get overwhelmed when they walk into a florist or a nursery. When our customers walk in the door, they immediately feel comfortable, at ease and inspired. We don’t just sell, we educate, thus making our customers more confident shoppers. We offer a more boutique environment with warm and personal service. And our product mix offers a fresh perspective as well. For example, we don’t just sell any flowers, we offer a carefully selected, well curated mix of flowers that are fresh and seasonal. In fact, we have just started carrying local flowers as well, which is very important to our clientele. Our product mix is also appealing, in addition to green indoor and flowers, we offer air plants, terrariums, pottery, furniture, gifts, home décor and accessories. Gift Certificates are coming soon too.

Loree: What’s the mix of retail sales and floral design? 

Bridget: Currently, the retail store outsells flowers in a huge way. But, we have started booking weddings and the everyday in-store flower sales have really taken off. You may find it interesting to know that our biggest category, by far, is green plants.

Loree: And how will it grow/expand?

Bridget: Well, I don’t have expansion plans anytime soon, but… I do hope to grow our wedding/special event business. I would also love to hire a general manager at some point so that I can find the time to step away and do more design work like potted containers or interior décor and plantscaping.

Loree: How has the local reaction been? 

Bridget: Our customers love us! Something we hear over and over again is “We’ve needed something like this in Louisville for so long!” Louisvillians love and support small business, I think that is one reason why locals love our small and welcoming shop.

Thank you Bridget for taking the time to answer my questions! Andrew and I have family fairly nearby (Nashville, TN) so I do hope to visit eventually, in the mean time if I have any readers who live near Louisville or are passing through please stop in Mahonia, I'm confident you will love it! Address: 806 East Market Street, Louisville, KY...

Now since this is a Monday...and Bridget's birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY my friend!) I had to make a vase to share. Think of this as birthday flowers for Bridget as well as my "In a Vase on Monday" contribution. Of course the odd thing is I get to keep the flowers, hardly seems fair...

I looked around my garden trying to think of what flowers would be appropriate. If there was a way to include these Podophyllum flowers I would have...(after all this gorgeous plant came to my garden from hers).

Then it hit me...Duh! Use your Mahonia! So I cut leaves and berries from Mahonia x media 'Charity'...

And if I were a more generous gardener I would have cut some of the new foliage from Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress', instead I cut a few of the older leaves.

Looking for contrast my eye settled on the Cotinus ‘Royal Purple'. I suppose it's a sort of tribute because Bridget is a pruning whiz and she'd be appalled at the condition of my plant.

Finally I plucked the flowers from this Lewisia which was hers, but gifted to me when she and Mary moved (look at me keeping it real with the spittle bug spit front and center).

There's the Lewisia...

Oh and I also included a few sprigs of Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) and flowers from Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Ruby Glow’.

The Euphorbia seeds coordinate nicely with the Cotinus leaves.

Once again this arrangement was destined for the dining table.

I also tucked in close a couple of Tillandsia, the white one a gift from Bridget when she visited at Christmas.

I hope you made it all the way thru this very long post. If you're interested in more from Mahonia click on that link and follow the Instagram and Pinterest links (you can also like them on Facebook). If you're a lover of beautiful floral design and unique plants you won't be disappointed. If you want to see more garden arrangements from rookies like me then click on over to Rambling in the Garden, where everyone participating will share links to their creations.

All material © 2009-2016 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

36 comments:

  1. This was a great interview. Not just throwaway answers from the interviewee (Bridget), but thorough, intelligent answers to intelligent questions. I loved it!

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    1. Thanks Gerhard, I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

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  2. I loved this interview and that is my kind of shop....I would want to visit it all the time. And what a wonderful friend you are to share this lovely vase! So many wonderful berries, flowers and exotic leaves...well for me living here in snow country!

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    1. I think most of those vase contents are very hardy, maybe you could create more of an exotic looking vase than you realize?

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  3. So happy for Bridget & that you shared this. What a gorgeous shop, and with its own unique blend. And what a talented and brave Girl! I wish I could go to there right now.

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    1. Talented and brave! Indeed, it takes both of those qualities to do something like this.

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  4. Thank you SO MUCH for the birthday flowers, Loree! They're gorgeous, you are hardly a rookie! And thanks for the interview, I would love to see more of Portland peeps come for a visit.

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    1. You're so welcome and yes, yes I am! Hope you had a wonderful day.

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  5. Kudos to Bridget on opening her new shop, I hope she does well. It looks like the kind of shop I would adore.

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    1. And to think she's just getting started!

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  6. Bridget has done a great job on her shop which looks divine. Your arrangement cleverly incorporates some Oregon natives in her (and her shop's) honor. You're both so talented!

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  7. Great interview, really entertaining! Shop looks great too! Bonus point for working "St. Louis" into the post. :)

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    1. If you ever make it down to Louisville...

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  8. What a fabulous shop! It looks like the kind of place I could wander for hours, checking every detail. In an alternative universe, I would have chosen a similar direction (assuming that my life in said alternative universe had given me a better eye for design).

    Your vase, as usual, is a creative mix. I'm impressed that you managed to weave in all sorts of meaningful elements too. The vase and the interview are both well done!

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    1. Ah you made me laugh Kris, "better eye for design"...I think you have a fabulous eye!

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  9. This was most interesting to read, Loree - and what a fascinating shop your friend has. I kept seeing things I would like to own!! And I loved how you included so many aspects of her in the birthday flowers too. Thanks for sharing everything in the post.

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    1. Thank you Cathy, for the inspiration to create a birthday vase tribute.

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  10. I have always thought love of the Mahonia as the dividing line between true gardeners and not so much gardeners. I wish I were closer to the shop, it looks great as does your arrangement.

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  11. Looks like an amazing shop with lots of great stuff. Lovely interview as well well done to you both.

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    1. Thanks Spiky O, good to see you blogging again.

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  12. A beautiful case, a beautiful shop, and a great interview! How great for your friend that she was able to open her shop like that. It looks like a wonderful space.

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    1. And someday I'll get to visit it in person!

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  13. What a delightful variety of pots, plants, and interesting objects in the shop, it would fit in well in Portland so it's interesting that it also fits in well in Lousville. Your arrangement is so exotic with such a wide range of textures and colors, Loree, I like the Euphorbia flowers and Cotinus leaves together, I was looking at the gorgeous color of my Cotinus today, and so nice that it is not nibbled by deer.

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    1. Yay for no deer nibbling! I can't imagine what it's like to garden with those terrorists about.

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  14. What an extravaganza! Your vases are always so exotic and inspiring.

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  15. How sweet that she brought a bit of Oregon along with her by naming her shop 'Mahonia'. Did she soak up some of that retail goodness by hanging out with you?

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    1. Oh gosh no, I can't take any of the credit for that. She's got her own long line of retail experiences to pull from.

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  16. I live just outside of "the ville" but don't go down town to much. Glad she is feeling very at home. The shop looks wonderful and I will make sure I stop in sometime. We don't have the Oregon level garden centers but there are some really good nursery's in the area I'm sure she will love it.

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    1. Oh Mike I hope you will stop in! Have you ever been to Brian's Botanicals? (http://briansbotanicals.us/) He's in Louisville and looks to have some great things.

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    2. One of my very good friends I will be there today actually!

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  17. Ohhh!!! It is a gorgeous and beautiful shop!! I enjoyed a lot the interview and what Bridget shares with us. Thank you. And the vase you made is beautiful. Always with so much diversity of plants, flowers and contrast. That is what I like the most.

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    1. Thank you Lisa, I am sure a lot of folks think a vase isn't really an arrangement unless it's got mostly flowers, but you know me...

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  18. What a pretty shop! Wouldn't Louisville be an interesting place to Fling one day.

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