By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Husband-and-wife duo Mark and Amy Eggers grew a small business out of their mutual love for plants and their long history in the Del Ray neighborhood.
The couple met 30 years ago while attending high school in Fairfax County. Last year, after nearly 20 years of marriage, they planted the seeds for their custom floral design business.
“Essentially, we were always just trying to figure out something that we could do together, because we truly, actually are friends aside from being married,” Amy said. “We love working on projects together and being creative, things like that, so we just kind of thought, ‘Oh, wow, it would be really fun to do flowers.’”
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Since starting up their two-person custom floral design company last spring as GIVE Del Ray, the Eggers have expanded their business to include houseplant sales and consultations. They recently rebranded to FLORA Roots & Stems.
Amy has been designing floral arrangements since 1995, but her passion for plants dates back even further, to her grandparents’ rose garden in Del Ray.
“My dad and his parents and siblings grew up on Randolph Avenue,” Amy said. “My grandmother was super creative. … She was in an article in ‘The Evening Star’ back in 1958 but for cake decorating. She was always very creative, and I was with her growing up quite a bit.”
Amy said it was her grandmother who first taught her about floral arrangements. In addition, her grandfather did business in commercial real estate in Del Ray dating back to the 1940s.
“For us to not only live in the same neighborhood as they did, but to have the chance of being business people in this neighborhood and contributing to the local economy, I think that [is] super cool,” Amy said.
In addition to what she learned from her grandmother, Amy has honed her botanical expertise over the years through books and online courses. Initially, Amy and Mark’s vision for their business was to create a flower subscription and delivery service.
“We’ve always liked gardening and plants,” Mark said. “It started out as flowers. We started out with this idea that in this neighborhood we were going to sell fresh-cut flowers and deliver them around the neighborhood on a bike. That would do really well in this neighborhood.”
While the bike vision didn’t pan out, Mark and Amy got their footing in the local business community by selling flowers at a Del Ray Business Association market last spring.
“[DRBA] put[s] on these great pop up markets for all the small businesses that don’t have brick-and-mortar presences,” Amy said, “and it’s so useful because it’s really financially prohibitive to get real estate on the Avenue for starters.”
Exposure was one of the major challenges Amy and Mark faced in the beginning, since FLORA is based out of their home on East Duncan Avenue. Eventually, however, they began to grow their client base with the help of the DRBA markets, social media, word of mouth recommendations and charity events.
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As FLORA grew, the couple got more and more orders for custom floral arrangements, especially around holidays.
“I love, love, love doing statement pieces,” Amy said. “I like seasonal things – I mean, who doesn’t? The color in the flowers that you can get around here, especially through the wholesalers, it’s just incredible. I did this arrangement for Pork Barrell BBQ with the chicken in it and then like a little bucket. … Really, I like catering to people’s requests. That to me is really rewarding.”
Amy said floral arrangements can cost anywhere from $45 to upward of $200, depending on size and flower type.
This year, FLORA added house plant sales and consultations to its products, which also include floral bouquets and centerpieces. The Eggers’ home has become a showcase of the plants they offer, as big as palms and as small as succulents. They also offer a variety of air plants – plants that get moisture from the air and don’t require a pot or soil – in different hanging vessels for small spaces.
Mark said the air plants are his favorite product to work with since they’re so versatile. While Amy’s specialty is the floral arrangements, his is finding unusual objects to act as plant holders.
“We’re always looking for interesting vessels,” Mark said. “And most of the time what we’re going to find or what we’re looking for isn’t necessarily something that’s meant to be a planter or anything.”
Some vessels have included antique kitchenware, reclaimed wood and old toys. Because of the creative nature of some of their products, the Eggers often sell from their personal inventory.
“That thing on the wall? It’s called a staghorn,” Mark said, pointing to a green leafy plant mounted to a piece of wood and hanging on their wall. “We made that. We could probably sell it and make another one, you know what I mean? We can have stuff just around here that’s in stock.”
Amy said her favorite thing about selling house plants has been educating her clientele.
“Essentially, I know [plants] are kind of scary,” Amy said. “Airplane succulents are kind of unknown, cacti they’re kind of prickly, but I just want to show people that say, ‘Oh, I have a black thumb,’ and it’s like, ‘No you really don’t. It’s probably the wrong soil, the wrong place in your house, the wrong temperature.’”
Amy will share her expertise at a special floral design workshop this Saturday at Bon Vivant Café and Farm Market. Tickets are $49 and include the supplies and instruction to create a floral center piece for attendees to use for Easter meals.
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“My goal is to teach people to create the long and low arrangements that they can keep on the table during their meals, and it isn’t going to interfere with their serving dishes or your conversation with your other guests,” Amy said. “Normally if you order something like this on[line], it would be at least $60 to $70, so [at the workshop you get to make] your own for cheaper with some locally sourced flowers too.”
Amy and Mark source most of their flowers and plants from a local wholesaler. They’ve also been working to source flowers from a local Del Ray resident who has a flower farm in her back yard called Grangel Farm.
Amy said she hopes to continue doing different workshops and classes. Before Mother’s Day, she and Mark are teaching a small class about plants to their son Henry’s kindergarten class at Mount Vernon Community School.
Also, on the horizon, Amy said she plans to start working with local restaurants and hotels.
“I’m going to do a big push to the area hotels, salons, restaurants, things like that to advertise the services for either supplying plants and flowers on a regular basis, seasonally or if it’s just a one off,” Amy said. “Just because sometimes you go into restaurants and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, no one’s watered that plant in like two months.’”
Looking to the future, Mark said he hasn’t given up his dream to deliver flowers on a bike.
“Really, I would love to do the bike thing one day, but we’re just not there yet,” Mark said. “When we’ve got enough people subscribing to the floral delivery, yeah sure, I’d love to do it. Anything’s better on a bike. She wouldn’t say that, but I say that.”
To learn more about FLORA, Roots & Stems’ products and services, visit their website florarootsandstems.com, follow them on Instagram @flora_roots_and_stems or catch them at the DRBA markets this spring and summer. The next market will take place on May 5.
“Our mission, if you will, is just to bring flowers and plants into as many lives as possible,” Amy said. “It’s something that I am passionate about teaching people about, so the more I learn, the more I’m just, I’m excited.”
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