New flower shop Floral Pursuit opens DowntownWritten by Danielle Stanton | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Stepping into Floral Pursuit is an organic experience: the walls are basic white, the furniture is reclaimed or from thrift stores, wood branches are vertically stacked along one wall, and a coyote sitting on a shelf presides over the store.
In one corner near exposed brick, two gray straight-backed chairs sit, while a wooden bench and an antique wood table create a comfortable, stylish conversational oasis.
The feel of the flower shop is exactly what owner Audrey Ackerman was going for — spacious, natural and intimate, a place where customers can create their own flower arrangements if they like, or rely on Ackerman’s natural talent for floral design.
On Jan. 16, Ackerman, 23, was putting the finishing touches on a funeral wreath with a German-style design for a local German family. Just talking to her, one gets a sense of her passion for the business, which officially opened its doors Nov. 16 at 48 S. St. Clair St., the former location of Swank Gifts. Her motto is “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Flowers.”
“I’m trying to give off that it’s more of a warmy, home feel, not like a chain store,” Ackerman said. “Every bouquet is different and unique. I want customers to be involved. Most people are, ‘You pick,’ but I want to give people the option.”
Ackerman said she wants to create an experience using the store’s atmosphere, her personal conversation and the customer’s input. She wants to build relationships with her customers and has already attracted a few regulars.
Floral Pursuit is a full-service florist, and Ackerman arranges flowers for any life event or holiday. She has no employees and said it will be some time before she makes any hiring decisions. For the time being, its all her with help from her family.
She provides pre-made “grab and go” bouquets for about $15. Ackerman’s mother, Beth, who makes deliveries, said a lot of men come in on their lunch break or after work and buy for their special someone.
“There’s a lot of very thoughtful men in Toledo,” she said.
She said her daughter has a “European” style of design because she believes flowers are for every day.
“Every business is a risk in this economy. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. And she’s very talented,” Beth said. “It’s a family thing; everybody is on board. Valentine’s Day is going to be nuts.”
The entire family helped Ackerman come up with the store’s name. She said she racked her brain trying to come up with just the right words. People suggested she use her name with the double A initials, which would make her first in the phone book, but she nixed that idea.
When her sister thought up the motto, she said that clinched it for her.
Ackerman’s roots in floral design go back to when she was a child, digging in her mother’s garden in Oregon. She would spend hours in the yard.
She pursued agriculture throughout high school. After graduating, she entered Agricultural Technical Institute at Ohio State University’s Wooster campus and then transferred to OSU. She interned at a florist’s shop near Clearwater, Fla., and earned her degree last year in floral design and marketing.
The past three years her business has come through word-of-mouth, with three or four weddings a year. But since opening the shop, her business has boomed to 15 weddings.
Ackerman said the business is “a lot of work,” because she wants to form a close relationship with all her brides.
“I want them to … come to me with any questions. I want to work closer with them. It’s really intense. I’m excited. I’ve got to make it happen,” she said.
Her flowers come from DWF Toledo Wholesale Florist, where flowers are purchased from all over the world, Ackerman said. Her tastes are eclectic, with selections that come from such places as California and Ecuador.
After Ackerman put the finishing touches on the funeral wreath, she had to prepare for another big funeral. But her schedule didn’t stop her from helping a customer who came in with an empty vase for a refill.
The gentleman was a business owner on South St. Clair Street. Ackerman said she brought him over a flower arrangement soon after she opened as a “hello” and he returns every so often. It’s just one example of the relationships she hopes to foster.
The flower shop also offers jewelry and beauty products from about 10 local artists, who have their work on consignment or purchased wholesale by Ackerman. Jewelry made by her sister, Elissa, is among the offerings.
Ackerman’s fiancé, Andy Knopp, constructed the counter out of corrugated metal from a neighbor’s barn. On one wall, a projector displays the image of a fire and logs.
In her backroom are shelves of vases and other glasswear and metal containers she’s collected for the past three years.
She wants to expand her idea of an interactive florist shop to include workshops where people can learn how to make their own arrangements.
As for the store, she wants to keep its open feel.
“It’s changing all the time and I’m coming up with new things. I think people will get it [the idea] over time,” Ackerman said. “I want people to not feel intimidated. I just want to do something different for Toledo.” O
Tags: Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Andy Knopp, Audrey Ackerman, Clearwater, Floral Pursuit, Florida, German-style design, Swank Gifts, The Ohio State University, Toledo Florist Exchange