In the last few months, you have probably heard the term “pivot” more times than you can count. So many local businesses have been forced to rethink their plans for 2020, perhaps most especially those in the wedding industry. But, what does it really look like when you “pivot” a small business?
To answer this question, I sat down with local floral designer Ashley Greer, the talented artist behind Atelier Ashley Flowers. If you have visited our shop over the last few months, you have probably noticed Ashley’s gorgeous work. Ashley delivers beautifully curated arrangements to us each week for display in our showrooms, saving me so much time and energy (I used to make our own arrangements). Read on to learn more about how Ashley has adapted to her new model and the trends she’s seeing now in floral design…
Meaghan: Prior to COVID, a huge element of your business consisted of designing for large weddings and events. Of course, with the shutdowns and limitations on large gatherings, many couples have either downscaled their weddings dramatically or opted to postpone their dates to a more stable time. How has your business changed over this time?
Ashley: While large weddings and events have been canceled or postponed along with their flower orders, daily flower deliveries have remained constant and even increased. At a time when everyone wants to minimize exposure as much as possible, having something as beautiful as a fresh custom flower arrangement designed and delivered is a real service.
Meaghan: I know when I saw that you were offering custom flowers with a delivery component, I jumped on board immediately. It is incredibly convenient for me, now that I’m splitting so much of my time at home with my son versus being at our shop all the time like before. I needed something I wouldn’t have to think about!
Ashley: Exactly. No one wants to spend unnecessary time outside of their home, so being able to go online, make a selection, and have it delivered within a matter of days has really become more and more of an expectation and standard operating procedure for all businesses.
Meaghan: Why do you think flowers resonate so much right now?
Ashley: We’ve lost our ability to roam freely around the world and there is a feeling of being stuck. Fresh flowers and plants really help create an atmosphere of vitality and even freedom during this unprecedented time.
Meaghan: I love that and totally agree. Being so cooped up all the time, a breath of fresh air is needed so much more now, and not much is fresher than freshly-cut flowers! How do you select the flowers you use for your arrangements?
Ashley: The colors chosen often fit the sentiment that is to be conveyed. Perhaps it is blush, white, and green going to a friend who has had to postpone their wedding; a burst of bright blooms to celebrate a birthday; or just a soft color palette for an “I’m thinking of you.”
The varieties of flowers we use are similar to what they have always been, but we place a greater emphasis on local availability. At the end of summer, there was a big demand for truly seasonal items such as dahlias or zinnia mixed with harvest grasses and pokeberry. Our local growers really responded with some beautiful blooms.
Meaghan: I noticed that your website now offers a curated selection of other giftable goods to include with flower orders – candles, beautiful pens, etcetera. What motivated you to expand outside of just offering flower arrangements?
Ashley: Really, I was just responding to what my clients were asking for. I started getting suggestions from people about sweet little bundles they wanted to see added and I thought it was a great idea. Again, it’s all an effort to make life easier for the gift-giver since people are coordinating so much more from home. So, in addition to flowers, I now offer beautiful cards, plush stuffed animals, garden tools, and other unique items that can be added to create a thoughtful package. This is especially helpful when the gift is often in lieu of being able to visit in person.
Meaghan: One thing I really respect about your business is that you have proactively engaged in a social justice narrative, which, in my opinion, is so vital right now when it feels like hugely significant issues are coming into focus. Can you tell us about the monthly Bouquet for Racial Equality that you sponsor?
Ashley: So much has come into focus for me regarding the role of privilege and I felt an urgency to address this in some way with my own business. In June of this year, I started an initiative where I donate one bouquet each month to an individual who makes a charitable donation to an organization promoting racial equality. I wanted to do something that would encourage my clients to engage while using my own skills as an artist, and so this idea was born. Thus far, I have donated six bouquets to individuals who donated to organizations such as The Arc DC, Building Bridges, the Boys and Girls Club of Washington, and GirlTrek. I love seeing who my clients select; it has really grown my knowledge of the amazing organizations out there doing great work for this cause.
Meaghan: It’s amazing how much this pandemic has shifted people’s needs and aesthetics. Have you noticed any significant trend shifts since COVID hit?
Ashley: The only request I have not been getting lately is for “moody” or dark burgundy colored flowers. In recent years, burgundy or wine-colored flowers have been immensely popular, especially during the fall and winter seasons. I think this says something about the overall mood these days – we’re craving either to be uplifted or soothed and burgundy really does neither.
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.