The smell of fresh coffee is typically not associated with a flower shop, but Suzanne Gardner Flowers is anything but a typical flower shop. The shop itself contains no remnants of the former sandwich shop previously located in the space. Suzanne Gardner and her husband have consciously preserved the 200-year-old building, mixing exposed brick with oversized furniture; creating an industrial look that is both chic and welcoming. Chandeliers imported from New York City illuminate the space and antique doors, repurposed from a hotel in London Ontario, showcase the design studio in the back of the store. The open concept allows patrons to view flower selections and observe florists at work. This area is also utilized for workshops and private events where clients are encouraged to expand their knowledge and harness their creativity with the guidance of staff. The store space is also available for rental for private events, hosting up to 50 people.
The idea was to create a European feel, or a vibe reminiscent of New York or Toronto. The result is not only visually stunning, but surprisingly calm and quaint. Amongst the unique foliage, boasting kumquat, lemon, lime and orange trees, it is impossible to ignore the attention to detail throughout the store. Noticeably, a water bowl for dogs is nestled in the corner behind the front door and forced magnolia branches greet you in the store’s entrance.
Shelves mirror a vintage library complete with ladder. There is also house gift items which are based on flowers and entertaining, and include organic honey sourced from a winery in the Niagara region.
Patrons are invited to enjoy a beverage from the espresso bar or they can treat themselves to homemade goodies prepared by a local baker while browsing through the large selection of greenery and gifts. All of the coffee is provided by Birds and Beans, which is organically grown and environmentally conscious, served alongside organic nutmeg and organic blue agave syrup. Not only are beverages served in biodegradable cups, but funds from each coffee purchase are donated back to farmers to help protect habitat forests; a testament to Gardner’s desire to promote nature, being green and giving back to the community. The oversized ginger cookies boast real candied ginger on top and the flaky butter tarts are irresistible, both are worth making a trip to the store even when you do not need flowers. The staff is both approachable and knowledgeable, serving double duty as florists and baristas.
Suzanne Gardner built her business on passion; the experience came much later. Despite initially lacking a background or education in horticulture, she was spontaneously hired in a flower shop to sweep floors, cut flowers and assist florists. It was this part-time job that sparked an interest in the flower business. Mimicking the work of her European mentors, Suzanne Gardner based the concept for her store on a flower bar in Milan, Italy. Her vision is for customers to have an experience; to come in and enjoy the space. It is important to Suzanne that the local community is proud of her business and she has created a space for people to enjoy; comfortable seating, complimentary Wi-Fi and a cozy environment, work together to encourage customers to stay. Suzanne herself is following her own humble beginnings by mentoring a young employee to follow in her footsteps.
It is important for the store to support local growers. Greenery and flowers are sourced from local farmers in the Niagara, Hillsburgh and Milton region, supplemented by Italian and Dutch imports during off-season. All arrangements are based on natural, simple designs. “Organic, natural flowers speak for themselves” says Suzanne. Nothing artificial is used in the store and clients are encouraged to work with florists to exchange ideas.
Arrangements depict local and seasonal colour palettes, highlighting the product. The idea is to wow the client and to showcase flowers in an innovative way. “Flowers are so personal” says Suzanne. “The same flowers have been around for years and so have the same ideas of what to do with them; it’s how you put them together that inspires beauty” she continues.
Indeed, the store is becoming somewhat of a destination, with people from Toronto and cottage country often dropping by. Suzanne Gardner Flowers has been well received in the community since opening its doors one and a half years ago. The Orangeville Business Improvement Association and Orangeville Tourist Association also work with local resorts to bring tourists to the store. Visitors are encouraged to pause for a selfie in the selfie corner amongst the foliage, where they can sit on a bench amongst the trees and share their experience on social media. The Orangeville store is an extension of Suzanne Gardner’s Toronto flower company which has been in business for over 25 years. The Orangeville store is open seven days a week during the spring and summer months, serving the surrounding areas Caledon, Erin, Mono and Orangeville areas. Suzanne Gardner Flowers Inc creations can also be purchased at the Orangeville Farmers Market on Saturdays commencing in May.
Written by: Lisa Bell | Photography: Emily Amos