It is no secret that we love fresh flowers. In our book, they are a must for any room. Yet, while we love to garden and grow our own flowers, we do not possibly have the ability to grow all the varieties that we love. Our go to florist in town is Local Color Flowers, owned by Ellen and Eric Frost. Their shop, in Baltimore's Waverly neighborhood, is open every Saturday year round at their studio in the heart of the 32nd Street Farmers Market , where you will find us every Saturday morning. They also host a variety of open studios and classes throughout the year. While many dream of being a florist, the reality is that being a florist is HARD work. The best florists are driven by passion and love of flowers and the team at LoCoFlo has passion in spades. We love that all of their flowers are sourced locally-- within 100 miles of Baltimore. This means that their flowers are seasonal (no peonies in October, thank you) and they are supporting local farmers and sustainable small businesses. Read on for more about their inspiring business from owner and brain child Ellen Frost.
Spring bouquet we made at home with delphinium and mock orange from Ellen's shop
There are many florists creating beautiful arrangements these days but we love that your flowers are all sourced locally. And that you are a true part of the Baltimore community. What inspired you to get started?
Inspiration for LoCoFlo came from a few places all at once. I was in graduate school at Loyola getting my MBA and I took an entrepreneurship class that really opened my eyes to Social Entrepreneurship and the important role that social entrepreneurs can play in their communities. I was also seeing my friends and people my age getting married with few environmentally conscious choices for flowers available to them. Most of the flowers being offered at florist shops were sourced from countries in South America, many with lax environmental and employment laws. Around the same time, I was working part time on a Baltimore County farm and I was learning about farming and flowers and I started to envision a business that could connect wedding clients with local flowers. Finally, Amy Stewart's landmark book Flower Confidential came out in early 2007. It was the first look at the global flower industry and the problems that went along with it. Locally sourced flowers made a lot of sense to me for environmental, social and aesthetic reasons.
Owner Ellen Frost at her favorite place to relax...her porch.
What are the unique challenges of sourcing all locally?
One of the biggest challenges with sourcing is the logistics. We currently source flowers from about 2 dozen local flower farmers in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Each farmer has their own way of working. Some deliver and some we have to pick up at the farm. Some send availability lists some we have to reach out and ask what's available. There is no central location for florists to buy locally grown flowers so we have to coordinate with each farm individually.
An arrangement we made at this year's Flower Challenge, a fun and good hearted flower arranging contest hosted by LoCoFlo.
What are the benefits?
There are so many benefits to sourcing our flowers locally. First and foremost we are sourcing flowers that have less environmental impact and a smaller environmental footprint than flowers that travel long distances to get to customers. Most flowers in the United States come from farms in Colombia, Ecuador, Holland and Kenya. These flowers are first trucked from the farm to the airport, then flown, usually to Miami, then trucked to a wholesaler in your town that then sells to a florist who then sells to the consumer. Our flowers come from farms within 100 miles of Baltimore and are grown by farmers and farm families that we know personally. Since our flowers are sourced locally, they often arrive in our shop on the same day they"re harvested. That means that they have a longer vase life than many flowers that you buy at the grocery store or wholesaler. Finally, sourcing locally means we can use delicate, heirloom blooms that do not ship well like poppies, dahlias, anemones and more.
We love a natural and seasonal wedding bouquet
Who have been your mentors and what have you learned from them?
I'm so grateful to all the mentors that have helped shape me as a designer and as a business owner. One I'll mention is Dave Dowling, current President of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Dave was one of the first growers we ever bought flowers from. His farm, Farmhouse Flowers was in Brookeville, Maryland. Each week when I would go to the farm to pick up flowers, Dave would take time to walk me around the fields and greenhouses, teach me about what was growing, how to harvest, how to sell and how to be a good advocate for local flowers and the farmers that grow them. He was always willing to spend time teaching me about flowers (and he still is all these years later). It's his example that I keep in mind as we educate customers, new farmers and new designers.
What are your favorite aspects of running Local Color? What are your least favorite aspects?
I love flowers! I really, really love them. Sourcing locally means our flowers change every single week, making design alot of fun. It's really special that we get to source from local growers we love and care about (we really love our growers!) and then we get to share those flowers with our amazing customers. I also am super grateful that I get to work with my husband and our awesome team everyday. We have the best time together.
My least favorite aspects of running Local Color...I really can't think of any!
How would you like to see your business grow in the next three years?
Our business model has changed a little in the last few years. While we're still providing flowers for lots of weddings, we are trying to grow other aspects of the business. We would like to see our Wednesday night Open Studio grow as well as our sales on Saturdays. Both of these days we're open for folks to come in and learn about flowers, buy flowers and practice design. We'd also like to expand our floral design class offerings. We do about 15 classes a year and we'd like to do more.
Whom do you count among your favorite floral designers/ inspirations?
My favorite floral designer is my dear friend Jennie Love of Love 'n Fresh flowers in Philadelphia. Jennie was one of my first flower friends when I started in business 10 years ago. She grows all of her own flowers on an urban farm inside the Philadelphia city limits. She designs flowers for amazing weddings while also offering design and farming classes. Her aesthetic is textural, abundant, unique and she showcases local flowers like no other designer does. She's amazing!
Four Favorites....what is your favorite:
Flower? The Tulip
Way to relax? Reading on my porch.
Book? The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Vacation/Destination? Key West