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July, 01 2019

Meet a LoCoFloer: Ellen Frost

Tags: Meet a LoCoFloer, Hilarious

Ok. President Business. The Man. Allen Armitage Winner. MBA. Local only. Whatever. We are finally meeting Ellen Frost, LoCoFlo founder and owner, for the blog. You really think you are the shit, don't you?

Don't be weird.

Is it true that you are so flower famous that you were recognized, like you're frickin' Linsey Lohan, at a botanical garden in Florida?

Lindsey Lohan? Is this 2002! Yes, it happened. It was wicked weird. I was in line to enter the West Martello Tower garden in Key West and they ask you where you are visiting from. When I said Maryland, the woman in line behind me asked if I owned Local Color Flowers! She attended a talk I gave to her garden club. I would say it was more coincidental than fame.

"Wicked weird" - who says that? Where are you from?

Buffalo. You know that.

I'm asking for the reader. Why do you think you are so much better than everybody else in the flower industry?

Come on, I don't! I am sensitive to some people in the flower industry who think our model is a critique of their business. Our local-only approach works for us and gives our customers a choice if that is important to them. It is not possible to do this everywhere in the US. We are not the best climate in the country for flower growing, but we can get fantastic local flowers all year. It isn't easy, but local flowers are important to us and is what the business is based on.

That's where the Allen Armitage award comes in! Yeah, let's get after it Chris Cuomo! This how the BLOG BLOWS UP!

What are you talking about? And why are you yelling?

I get excited.

You know the staff doesn't like it when you come into the shop and start yelling.

I'm not yelling at them. Why can't I get excited about flowers? YEEHAW!

OK. That's enough.

Moving on... What is the nerdiest flower thing you do? It's gotta be that Darwin book club. Not only do you read books. The books are about flowers. Then you add Darwin on like homework.

Why don't you read a book and join us?

I like TV. And video games.

I know. Maybe you could just spend one night reading a book instead.

No. Isn't awesome to work with your husband?

Yes.

So, you have been doing this for like more than 10 years. You don't make any money. What are you doing? What are you doing?

It's fun. And we are making a little money.

Alright. Let's get into the story. How did all of this get started?

I finished business school and was inspired by an entrepreneur class. I knew I wanted to start my own small business but didn't know what the business would do.

MBA. We get it.

My friend Marina, who was in my Master Gardener class, had read the book "Flower Confidential" by Amy Stewart and suggested a local-only wedding flower business.

MBA and Master Gardner? You slipped that one in pretty easily.

So, I then read the book - it's all about the global flower industry. Most cut flowers sold in the US are grown overseas. It takes a lot of resources and chemicals to ship, store, and preserve foreign flowers for sale in the US.

So you're a flower protectionist. A Trumpian florist?

You're being weird again. We're a small business selling local products. Economic globalization is beneficial for many industries. Our local flowers are a cleaner, greener product that are grown by our friends who run small, family farms. Plus there are so many more interesting varieties with longer vase life.

BORING!

So, Marina and I joined with our friend Jen, who worked part-time with me at Bridenbaugh Farm to start the business.

OK. Marina - the ideas guy. Jen - the farm guy. Ellen - the business guy. What about the skills necessary to do the work. I guess it can't be that hard to put flowers in a vase. Did you just wing it?

No, we didn't just wing it!

Ow! No punching during the interview.

We took a design class at BCCC. We practiced. This was just on the weekends. And, we only designed flowers for friends at first.

OK. You have your little weekend wedding side-hustle going. How long before you dropped the dead weight and ramped up to be the floral juggernaut LoCoFlo is today.

Those are my friends! Marina moved to the Eastern Shore and Jen had twins, so they couldn't be in the business anymore. And that's not nice.

Whatever. I have done more for LoCoFlo than the two of them combined.

Yeah, whatever.

Double Whatever! So what happened next?

We rented a space to work and I eventually left my job to work on flowers full time.

That's it?

Well, I increased my design skills - took more classes. Joined the ASCFG. Built relationships with farmers and customers. Cultivated our social media. Established our brand. Received reviews and referrals. The business grew, we got some part-time help. We bought a van. And we were booking over 100 weddings year.

That's it? What about when I jumped on board?

What about it?

That was awesome.

Hello.

Ok. What about the building?

That changed our business. We were casually looking for a space for years. We were on the roof of a potential building and a man in the street below called to us. We went down and he said he owned the small warehouse across the street and was willing to sell!

Aw, that was so lit!

You sound so stupid when you talk that way.

It's what the kids are saying.

You're not a kid, and they're probably not saying that anymore.

But, I'm cool.

No, you're not.

I'm trying.

Stop trying.

Just keep going.

Well, we made a deal that night and after renovations, we moved in January 2013. We are doing so many more fun things at the shop like Open Studio, Sat@LoCoFlo, Classes, Book Club, private and community events. Plus some more exciting plans.

Oh, right, the thing?

Yeah, the thing.

Ok. Let's wrap this up. Is there anything else you want the readers to know?

I don't know if they got much out of this.

What do you mean. This was great!

I don't think so. I have to do my actual work.

Just finish this up with something schmaltzy.

I'm so grateful for what LoCoFlo has become. We are the largest buyer of flowers for several local farmers. We provide flexible employment for some of our Mom friends and flower growers. We have created a cool place in Baltimore where people can learn and be creative. I am especially proud of remarks by State Senator Mary Washington who recently visited our shop...

Ok hot shot. Cue music: I had the time of my life...

Don't be weird.

Comments

June, 21 2019

What's Your Statice?

Tags: Farmers, Nerdy AF, Flower Profile

Ours is German. It's unremarkable all alone in a bucket straight from the farm. But Statice, Ellen says, is a floral work-horse. Old Reliable. AD ('All Day' if you are familiar with the confusing nickname of football player Adrian Peterson - sometimes misnomered AP). What I'm getting at is Statice is a hearty and versatile cut we use year-round from Winter wreaths to Summer bouquets. It's a two-way player. It's a multi-instrumentalist. It's a flower for all seasons. It gets the job done!


LB (Statice: sassy) with her Statice

And that's why Ellen loves herself some Statice. She also loves to enumerate:

  1. Statice looks the same fresh or dried (there's your versatility and longevity)
  2. Statice is a competent local substitute for the oft-requested and locally-scarce Baby's Breath
  3. With a name like 'Statice' the jokes write themselves. Baller.
  4. Statice is a staple for arrangements out of water: arches, bouts, head crowns, aisle swags and the such.
  5. Not a lot of growers sell it, so it provides a unique look in our arrangements.

Despite the high regard it holds today here at LoCoFlo, it took a few seasons for Statice to reach its current status (it didn't even get an at-large bid in last year's inaugural Flower Madness Tourney). Our first deliveries came from Greenstone Fields in 2014. After a few weeks, we saw the upside, and went all in. The next harvest, Ellen bought the entire crop.

Statice: flush.

As quickly as Statice came into our lives, it was gone. Hey Lloyd, Ellen was ready to be heartbroken (she really said 'heartbroken'). The Greenstone Statice bonanza lasted only one year.

Statice: sadness.

There were no other Statice growers nearby. Ellen started to recruit. Butterbee accepted the challenge and ordered up the plants from Dave Dowling at Gloeckner in the Fall of 2017. A year and a half later, we bought Butterbee's entire crop.

Statice: back in business.

Fake ending. More Statice. When LB delivered the Statice, local flower OG Bob Wollam came into the studio and said "Oh, you've got Limonium (fancy name for Statice). I used to grow a purple variety."

Statice: so many emotions.

Comments

April, 28 2019

Hey Guys! We Have a Mural Now

Tags: At LoCoFlo

LoCoFlo thought we had something special when Jessica A. Rowe Valmas applied for a design job with us. She was in the Future Harvest Beginner Farmer Training Program with an internship at our long-time trusted partner, Butterbee Farm. She was a graduate of MICA with several aquatic-themed commissions completed. She wore a t-shirt that implied membership in The Society of Excellent Women. It was all very promising.

SBJ was on his way, and we needed a new Stacy, so Jess was in.

Flower design training began. Jess built a wall. Everything was pretty, pretty, pretty good. Then, things got weird. Jess started bringing Uncrustables for lunch. She reenacted her favorite signature professional wrestling moves from the 90's (i.e Scotty Too Hotty and George, The Animal, Steel). She would, on more than one occasion, rap the entire theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Real weird.

But Jess had the art skillz, and we asked her to paint a mural on the outside of the building. We set the requirements: Flowers from our logo - Rudbeckia, Zinnia, Dahlia. Easy peasy.

Nailed it!

It turns out our first impression was right: Jess is special. She has transformed our building and our business. She brings beauty to shop even on the days she isn't working. If we could just get her to eat some real food...

Comments

April, 19 2019

Flower 911

Tags: Friends, Hilarious, Open Studio

What happens when our customer gives us the wrong date for their event? If they call during Open Studio looking for their flowers, we're on the mofo (to paraphrase Jules Winnfield).

Ellen calmly assured the customer over the phone we would make it to their event in time for them to present their awardees with flowers - then she hit the panic button. (The event had already begun!)

Bloom Battlers Chris Vaeth and Heather Zampier, along with LoCoFlo designer Jess, answered the bell. Chris was on-site for his wedding consultation, Heather is a regular at Open Studio (it's her mid-week, self-prescribed therapy), and Jess was working on the LoCoFlo mural.

Heather dropped a handful of stock, Jess slid off her ladder, Chris said "my wedding plans can wait, it's flower time!" (minor blog hyperbole). Ellen directed her impromptu, pro-am, all-star team to crank out three spectacular presentation centerpieces in a flash.

Eric revved up the LoCoRoll, and was on his way. A LoCoFlo miracle!

And that was the day Heather and Chris became local flower folk heroes.

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April, 14 2019

Bloom Battle '19 Floral Glory

Tags: Bloom Battle

Bloom Battle '19 was a competition of contrasts. Of the 16 competitors, we had nine battle-tested veterans and seven up-starts. The winning designers reflected the varying experience of the field.

Jen Majewski, a four-time competitor, swept the popular vote winning both the Instagram Famous prize and the People's Choice award.

Jen is the true people's champion.

Jeffrey Gill, was not only a first time contestant, but his First Prize winning entry was his first ever large floral arrangement!

Jeffrey exhibited a wonderful negative capability in his arrangement.

Rounding out the victors:

2nd Place: Chis Vaeth, The Tom Brady of Bloom Battle, is a perennial winner. (He's never been accused of deflated balls.)

3rd Place: Rebecca Bainum another first-timer, brought it hard and crushed it. What's up.

Check out all of the fun in our flickr album.

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