While compiling the florist directory, I came across an unusually themed florist shop from the leafy green Eastern suburb of Hawthorn, Melbourne called Canary Jane’s Flowers. Named after the proprietor, Rebecca Stacey’s, lifelong obsession with Doris Day, the movie Calamity Jane, and in general, all things vintage, the shop is decked out like a 1950’s kitchen, black and white checkerboard flooring and all.<!–more–>
Hmmm, says I, time to get on the blower and investigate…
Seamus: it’s a lovely looking shop you have… I love the 50’s Kitsch theme!
Rebecca: Thanks! It’s my little 50’s kitchen!
S – Do you dress up in this style every day at work?
R – Most days yeah! In summer I always wear frocks, and then I do my hair, red lippy – it’s just my style, I love it!
S – And do people have 50s style weddings and get you do them?
R – I have done a few, vintage-inspired weddings. The thing with flowers in the ‘50s, they were pretty hilarious, singularly-wired hyacinths in the teardrop, and gladdies. So the flowers themselves are usually a bit more contemporary but the dresses tend to reflect the vintage thing.
S – And the music, Doris Day? …
R – Yes I have a record player in the shop – Ella Fitzgerald this morning – I always play old music, makes me happy!
S – You only opened a year or so, how are you finding business is going?
R – I opened March last year. It’s going really well actually. The area I am in. Everyone supports local shops and there’s a real community vibe. And I haven’t ever pushed myself as a wedding florist, but I have just been getting constant weddings which is awesome. August, September and October are pretty much booked out and I’ve got weddings booked up until April next year. So – it’s exciting!
S – Well I think it’s the clarity of your niche. The fact that you have made such a strong and specific creative statement through your business is always going to attract people who get into that particular thing. It might also detract some from choosing you but it’s going to strongly attract those who are like “Wow – that’s right up my alley”. If you’re too general, then you run the risk of attracting fewer clients because nobody hates you and nobody loves you. That’s like, marketing 101!
R – Cool! Well … it’s easier working with a theme because with a general approach you can almost get lost whereas I was like “I want that ‘50s kitchen look”. I was quite specific … but you know, I’ve just set up shop trying to be me and I just love being at work every day because it’s totally me.
S – Your website reflects the theme very well. Did you do this yourself or hire someone to help you out with it?
R – I worked with a web designer and I was probably the worst client ever! We did it in WordPress but I was like, “I want it to be like you’ve walked into the shop”. So there was a lot of to-and-fro and compromise but we got there in the end.
S – And what did you use to make the shopping cart?
R – E-way – and I think that was probably the most complicated thing, all the banks, the back end, getting it all linked up, the nitty gritty. It was kind of fun but it’s totally not my area; I had no idea about websites and computers and all of that. So I was just like: “I’ll pay someone to do it”.
It took over a year, getting the photos and ideas together, but the actual building of it took about 3 months. The Victorian language of flowers stuff, that was quite a lot of data entry. And the delivery variables – we had a huge issue with the differing amounts for different areas. But he did it; we got there in the end!
S – Tell me more about the language of flowers stuff.
R – I do that in the shop as well – like the flower of the day is tulip which means “declaration of love”. I love that! Some of them are hilarious and really awful! Really harsh ones! Like “I hate you!” – that’s basil – you don’t want to be getting basil!
S – How did you get into floristry?
R – I had been thinking about it, then I got a redundancy payout, and I thought “bugger it; I’ll do a floral course”. But before the course started I went to a florist to ask questions about it and she offered me a job on the spot, so I ended up working there for eight years and loving it, wound up running the shop. And when that came to an end it was time to open up my own shop!
S – Any other tips for florists about getting busy?
R – Well the area matters, we have such beautiful shops in this strip and people shop locally. And then lots of word-of-mouth, amazing friends, random connections. Like my pilates instructor asked if he could feature my flowers in his studio so his clients see it and that stuff filters through.
S – So lots of networking?
R – Exactly .. but not … going out and …
S – Yeah I don’t mean networking in that horrible cheesy way. Natural social networking between real people.
R – Exactly! And that’s the best way to do it. And we have the tram stops and the local train station. The local boys dropping by to buy flowers for their ladies, getting those brownie points in …
S – So when you want to learn something new, skills, design concepts, to do with floristy, any favourite resources?
R – Well there’s Pinterest and stuff like that but more … like we were in Tasmania and we did this amazing rainforest walk and I would get inspiration from the trees and the branches and the movement, rather than see someone’s work and think “Oh that’s awesome – I’m gonna do that”. And I prefer to use the seasonal flowers and think about how are they going to work, how can I optimize how pretty they are.
S – How do you integrate, say, Australian natives with your overall 50’s kitsch theme?
R – It’s not hard. I’m not going to put them with a big, pink fluffy rose. I don’t try to disguise them. But it might be the way I wrap them, like I use a lot of vintage lace to tie off my bouquets but I definitely don’t try and do big, wide teardrop bouquets or anything!
S – So not really 50s flowers as such but sort of contemporary flowers with this hipster, vintage reference…?
R – Yeah I guess so. When I look back at ‘50s bouquets, they’re so environmentally unfriendly, lots of wire, heaps of plastic ribbons, blergh! I just think that’s ridiculous. And so labour intensive. You know they were wiring florets of gladioli. And also the longevity – that stuff wouldn’t last more than a couple of days. So there’s not really a market out there unless it was for a wedding.
But then the biggest seller in the shop would be tussy mussies…
S – Can you explain these to me?
R – They’re really old-school posies, a lot of herbs and scented foliages, not a huge amount of flowers. It’s a small posy, very old fashioned looking. Bread-and-butter plate sized, maybe only one rose, one tulip, mainly foliages, and tightly grouped-together flowers, lots of berries…
S – Tell me about the name “Canary Jane’s”?
R – So Doris Day’s “Calamity Jane” was my all-time favourite movie growing up. So much so that I snapped the VCR tape – I played it so much! But the real Calamity Jane was called Martha Jane Canary and she was this tough, very gruff looking lady, borderline masculine looking lady.
S – And you’ve got your two canaries there…R – Yes, Bill and Doris. You can probably hear Doris having a tweet in the background… they’re lovely to have around while you work. And the flowers too! I think that’s why we (florists) are so happy because we’re surrounded by such beautiful flowers all the time and it’s really hard to be grumpy. And, as opposed to a coffee shop, where people come in needing their coffee and they’re grumpy, people generally feel pretty happy when they come into a flower shop. I love being a florist. I’ll be 90 and still doing it probably!
What fun: got your creative wheels a-spinning? Time for a shop makeover this winter?