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.