It’s almost closing time late on a Thursday afternoon at The Flower Bar in Larchmont and the customers are still coming in. As one of six staffers helps them, others finish lavender table arrangements for an event.
The steady hum is partly about Thursdays being half-price day at The Flower Bar, but mostly about the quality of the flowers. It’s something we recently experienced when the florist handed out free bouquets of sherbet-colored roses at Lord & Taylor in Eastchester as part of a Mother’s Day promotion. The large blooms remained fresh for almost two weeks — a record for us.
“We feed our flowers a special nutrient mix,” says Nancy White, The Flower Bar’s confident owner. “It’s not just how the flowers are grown but when and how they’re being handled every step of the way.”
Being in deep lust with botanicals, we couldn’t resist buying a bouquet of pale pink-graduating-to-fuchsia roses. They were placed in a wet foam pouch that was placed in a plastic bag and only then wrapped in the traditional tissue and plastic and tied with a gray ribbon. (Colors are important at the shop, which is decorated in coral, the Pantone color of the year.)
When it comes to her fresh blossoms — White also has artificial flowers — the Larchmont resident thinks globally but acts locally.
“Our flowers come from all over the world, but I buy through local wholesalers,” says White, who carries such unusual blooms as South Africa’s dubium, or star of Bethlehem and parrot and peony tulips.
She also participates in the Netherlands’ Aalsmeer Flower Auction, as half of the world’s flowers come from that country. This gives her access to Israeli, Italian and South African blooms, among others.
Different countries have different floral strengths, of course. The best tulips? The Netherlands, naturally, White says. The best roses? Ecuador. The best hydrangeas? Colombia. The best flowers overall? Japan, though the cost is prohibitive. Still, there are those willing to pay top dollar and those looking for a bargain on a Thursday. White serves them all, her business tripling since she bought the shop in 2011, with 50% call-ins, 40% walk-ins and 10% online customers. She’s also seen a boost since she was accepted into the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders Initiative, supporting entrepreneurs such as herself.
White’s success can be attributed to what she describes as a right brain/left brain mindset — a creative side and business acumen respectively, honed during what she calls the first act of her life, a career in sales and marketing.
Growing up in Larchmont, White loved to draw and sail. After graduating from Mamaroneck High School, she wanted an experience different from New York suburbia so she went off to Sweet Briar College, a women’s college in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. White can’t say enough about the school.
“I was a printmaking student and it had a fabulous printmaking faculty. The facilities were amazing with 24/7 access to everything.”
Her Sweet Briar education placed her in the professional art world, producing catalogs at Sotheby’s auction house — 200 a year. (“I’m very organized,” she says.)
She’s also very savvy. Good with numbers — there’s that left-brain side — she tracked costs, saving Sotheby’s $3 million in 1982. However, she says, “I always had a dream of having my own magazine, which I would call IP for Infinite Possibilities.”
She would go on instead to run The Aircraft Bulletin, serve as Northern advertising manager of Power & Motoryacht magazine and produce catalogs for The Royal Oak Foundation, the American Hospital of Paris and The Mount, author Edith Wharton’s Lenox, Massachusetts, home.
White started Showhouse magazine, which lasted five years. “We won all kinds of creative awards, but I was doing everything and I couldn’t outsource the advertising.” Independently, she sold ads for Sierra and Preservation magazines.
“The problem is no one has figured out how to make advertising money off the internet but Google.”
In the meantime, White had married, divorced and met her second husband and business partner, John Feldtmose, at the Larchmont Yacht Club. Ten years ago, she decided she couldn’t see herself remaining in sales and marketing. She took one of Larchmont psychologist Jacqueline Plumez’s career counseling surveys, which underscored her creative and analytical complements.
“I’d always loved flowers,” she adds. White received a certificate from the New York Botanical Garden Floral Design program, which required an internship that she did at The Flower Bar.
The rest is if not history then a story that keeps coming up roses.
For more, visit the-flower-bar.com.