Welcome to Better Know a Store Owner, a Racked feature focusing on the people who run our favorite boutiques around the city.Photos by William Chan
Less than a year ago, Denise Porcaro opened Flower Girl NYC, a floral boutique specializing in unique arrangements on Eldridge Street. Porcaro's clients range from brides to five star hotels and restaurants, as well as fashion brands like Chanel, Club Monaco, and Loeffler Randall. She previously shared a space with Earnest Sewn, but has since embarked on her very first stand-alone storefront.
After the jump, she explains to us the challenges of working in an industry that at its core is a perishable one. She also discusses the importance of DIY tutorials (the store offers monthly classes on flower arranging), and how putting together a centerpiece is a lot like painting on canvas.
Did you always want to be in the floral design industry, or was it something that just kind of came up?
It's something that just kind of came up. I went to school at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights for film production. Production design, actually, was what I wanted to do. I did it for a little, while I was working in the restaurant business out of college, cocktail waitressing, bartending, hostessing—that whole world.
I was doing flowers for one of the restaurants that I worked for and one thing led to another. I was getting praise and word-of-mouth recommendations, and then all of a sudden there was this flower business in my hands. I think what ultimately happened was that it was a creative outlet for me, because I was working in the restaurant business, but I wasn't doing much production design, which is super creative.
You've done a lot of work with different fashion brands. When you started your business, was that a direction you wanted to go in, or did that happen organically too?
That kind of happened organically as well, just for the simple fact that my background was in the restaurant business and just being in that world. Flowers are everywhere and for so many occasions, but as far as the fashion thing, I think there's been word-of-mouth praise and also from being in a retail [world]—that actually boosted a lot of the fashion stuff, because we shared a space with Earnest Sewn.
How did you get the shop inside Earnest Sewn?
Earnest Sewn was a client of mine for two years when they opened their flagship store in Meatpacking. I arranged flowers for them from the very beginning, and then three years later they asked me if I would do a shop within a shop when they were opening their Lower East Side store. Flowers can go with anything, who would've thought it would work so well with jeans, you know?
They also knew I was kind of looking for a retail place, and I've called it my training wheels shop when I first opened there, because it just took a lot of pressure off. It's a lot—it's a perishable business, so it's not like I just buy inventory, stock it, and then sell it. It's a whole different world.
What was it like transitioning to your own store? Did you kind of hit a point with Earnest Sewn when you realized, okay, I'm ready to do this on my own.
Yes. I wanted to do it for a long time, and it was five years when we actually did the move. The thing is, I could have operated a business out of there forever in a certain capacity, but the brand had grown in five years, I had grown up in five years, my design had grown in five years. [The new store] still has that rustic element, but it's polished around the edges at the shop. It's painted white brick, and a lot more streamlined and a lot more modern.
We can also play our own music, we have a round table for brides and their moms to come in. So it's just kind of the natural progression of the business. I designed the shop so that it would be a blank canvas. It's a beautiful space.
How's it been going so far? Have you been open for a full year yet?
No, actually, we're just approaching a year. We had an interesting start with just getting the doors open, and then Sandy happened. Right after that was our busiest time of year. It's not like we had an official opening, because we just dove right into fall, and Christmas decorating. It was a crazy little bit of time there. But officially we opened the doors in October.
I wanted to ask you what your busiest season is. I assumed it would be wedding season, but are the holidays busier for you?
For whatever reason this year we wound up with a lot of spring weddings, and we have a ton of fall weddings coming up. So yes, wedding season [is very busy], but not necessarily summer weddings—it's more like the spring and the fall. Christmas is interesting because not only do we deck the halls, and do a bunch of garlands and things, but there are also so many smaller parties that time of year. People are having corporate parties, dinner parties, whatever it is. So we end up doing flowers for a lot of holiday events.
So it sounds like you're busy all the time!
We are! We are so busy all the time! It's not a bad problem, it's just trying to make everybody happy and figure it all out along with growing pains.
You've have such a wide variety of clients, from hotels and restaurants, and then fashion brands and some smaller indie setups. Do you have a favorite type of client that you like to work with. Do you really like doing hotels, or do you really like doing bridal?
Of course I love to sit with a bride and hear her vision, and I love to work with different venues, and restaurants are fun because you can tie into the menus. But ultimately, one of my favorite things to do is personal homes. We have a couple that we do, and it's actually such a beautiful service. It's a luxury. But I love it all.
When you were envisioning having your own store, did you always imagine from the get-go that you'd sell other items besides just flowers?
There are so many objects and other things that come along with floral. In our arrangements, we have [a lot of texture] and interesting elements that come along with them. We sell crystals, and tote bags and aprons—the girls wear the aprons around the store, and [we figured] why not sell them? If you're getting flowers delivered to Australia, at least we can ship you a Flower Girl apron or something like that.
There's something to say about those stores that mix a million different things, and I never wanted to become one of those gift kind of stores. It just seemed a little too suburban. My main focus is flowers, period. But yeah, we have our candle, we have aprons, we have like some small little things. The things that make sense. Like, interesting vases and all these antique bottles that I love to find. People can afford them, so we have like a little representation of [those things] that people can just buy when they're in the store.
You get a lot of media attention for some of your DIY projects, like a flower crown tutorial you recently had. How frequently do you try to do things like that?
Yeah, I mean, that's super important. It's part of the reason why I built the store the way I did [with the] big barn table in the middle. I think that people think flowers are a little bit—like you have to know a lot of stuff, but [those events]help people to not be scared. It's easy to create these things. The classes build a sense of community, and we're expanding, so that's always fun. And anybody can kind of do it—it's their representation, just like anybody can wind up with a canvas and paint. It's an art, so why not just make it super approachable for everybody?
Do you have any pro tips on how to keep flowers alive?
It really depends on what it is and where they are, but there's the rule of thumb that you change the water everyday to fresh water, and obviously make sure that all the stems are submerged in water. And then to pick out anything dead. If you have a big bunch of flowers and there are one or two dead blooms, they're going to create bacteria, so just continue to take out anything that's dying. Flowers will die off at different levels and at different times, so you don't have to throw away the whole bouquet just because one dies. And every few days, when you're changing the water, just give them a fresh trim.
Okay, time for the lightening round. Beach or mountains?
That's so hard! I love both. Can you say both? Maybe beach, or a mountain with a lake.
Spring or fall?
Whiskey or tequila?
Favorite travel destination?
I'm torn between my recent travel, or Paris.
Where was that?