Emily Moore caught up with the owners of Floralies to talk about how their business has blossomed and their plans for the future.
HAVING suffered two brain infections in September 2021 and June 2022, both of which left one side of his body temporarily paralysed, it would have been understandable if Marc Simon had decided to step back and take life slightly more gently.
Instead, with determination and the support of his wife, Karen, he did the opposite, not only regaining his health each time but also expanding his business and moving to town premises just weeks after his second illness.
‘It was a difficult time and, with the lease on our former shop at Five Oaks expiring at the end of last year, we had to make some serious decisions about the future of the business,’ said Marc, who has owned Floralies for 14 years.
‘With much of our business now coming from online orders, the priority was for a workshop and space where we could receive deliveries and arrange the bouquets. But then the landlord of our new premises in Janvrin Road suggested that we look at this shop, and we were instantly struck by the potential it offered for both a workspace and a beautiful retail area.’
Exemplifying the adage that every cloud has a silver lining, Marc’s health battles led Karen to take a more active role within the business and her involvement and the bigger premises have combined to inspire many new plans.
‘Marc had been running the business pretty much single-handedly for many years, as I was working full-time at Mont à l’Abbé School,’ she explained. ‘Now that I have reduced my hours there slightly and committed to spending more time in Floralies, we are starting to look at things from a different perspective and stretching ourselves further.’
And it is Karen’s dual role as a teaching assistant and florist which have triggered many of those ideas.
‘I was celebrating the end of term with some friends last summer when, over a couple of drinks, I showed them how to build a bouquet,’ she reflected. ‘They enjoyed the experience so much that they suggested running floristry workshops in Floralies.’
While the Five Oaks premises were too small for such activities, Marc and Karen are now busily planning a range of events such as birthday parties, hen-dos and baby showers at which people can enjoy some drinks and canapés while learning how to make bouquets.
‘A lot of people offer wreath-making workshops at Christmas but we want to do something different and introduce people to floristry, which is something of a dying art,’ said Marc.
While arranging flowers may be a skill unknown by many, for a man who grew up working in his family’s nurseries, plants have been a part of his life for as long as he can remember.
‘Before buying Floralies from Carmen Sellick in 2008, I worked for the family business, Sunset Nurseries, which my father, Stuart, owned,’ he recalled. ‘We used to grow a lot of flowers, predominantly alstroemeria but also carnations and lisianthus. A key side of the business was supplying florists with cut flowers and sundries such as oasis and baskets.
‘I was mainly involved with the wholesale side of the business and the on-site gift shop but, with all the tools needed to create bouquets in plentiful supply, I started to teach myself the art of flower arranging.
‘When, in 2008, we decided to close Sunset Nurseries as the greenhouses were coming to the end of their life and the tourist trade was declining, I had to find a new career and, having always enjoyed arranging flowers, I immersed myself in learning floristry and, when the opportunity to purchase Floralies came up, it felt like the right thing to do.’
At that point, the business, which was founded by Jean Roche in 1983, traded from ‘a tiny shop’ at Five Oaks.
‘When we first took over, not only was the shop very small but there was no website either,’ Marc recalled. ‘We started with one member of staff in the shop and one driver but, even at that point, we could see the potential for growth and, when the shop next door became vacant, we took on those premises as well, merging the two units into one.
‘That move also enabled us to expand our product offer, adding chocolates, greetings cards and gift items which complement flowers.’
With even larger premises now, Marc and Karen are determined not only to hold events within the store but also to undertake community initiatives to introduce more people to the art of floristry.
‘Marc and I met when we were both volunteer youth workers and giving young people a start in life has always been really important to both of us,’ explained Karen.
‘We already support students from Mont à l’Abbé who are just about to leave school and move into supported day centres. Seeing their faces when they are in the shop working with the flowers is such a joy, as you can see the sense of purpose and boost to their wellbeing that the experience gives them.’
Marc added: ‘We have also offered Project Trident work experience placements to some of the Mont à l’Abbé pupils and – having had my own first experience of floristry through Project Trident – this is something that we are keen to develop and offer to students in mainstream schools as well.’
And this is not the only way in which the couple hope to share their floristry skills with others.
‘We are working on a subscription service, to be complemented by instructional videos, which will be available on our website social media, to help people who subscribe to this service to prepare and arrange their blooms into a beautiful arrangement,’ explained Karen. ‘The flowers will be hand-delivered, in eco packaging, by our driver.’
Conscious of the amount of plastic used across the industry, the couple are also investigating further eco-friendly solutions to reduce their carbon footprint.
‘We tried using compostable plastic but it didn’t hold the water long enough, so we are now using eco wraps, brown paper, eco Sellotape and string wherever possible to minimise our use of plastic,’ Karen explained. ‘In fact, this packaging is the only option we offer for our classic bouquets.’