Opening a new business in the mess of a pandemic seems like a super-stressor, but perish the thought says Kate Rigby Pipan.
“I’m surrounded by flowers, it’s the best part of my job,” Pipan says as she trims roses for a bouquet.
Pipan opened Gather Floral & Events in August on James Street North, joining I Fiori as the second flower shop on the street.
For years Pipan had been working in the medical sales business. When Covid started to phase out her job she switched to the challenging, but creative world of working with perishable goods.
“Yes, stocking the cooler is one of the hardens parts of my work,” she says.
She has to consider what flowers are popular, predict what customers might order, and consider how long the delicate beauties will stay fresh.
Gather Floral & Events is in a cheery yellow building at 320 James Street North, enhanced by Pipan’s elegant pots of greens framing the display windows.
Inside tropical plants cascade from ceiling to floor in a living wall installation. Opposite the ornamentals, a wall of potted herbs catches just enough light from the sunny west facing window to maintain their delicious aroma.
On the centre table, buckets of ready- made bouquets are ready for the impulsive customer seeking a blast of colour.
“I always wanted to offer affordable bouquets in addition to custom arrangements,” she says.
Preorders are welcomed, they give Pipan time to source specific flowers.
“It’s a challenge when customers walk in at the last minute looking for a certain colour or flower. Everyone seemed to want burgundy through the fall.”
In the summer, Pipan buys flowers from local growers. Now as the local season has ended, imported stock arrives on a regular basis from a wholesaler in Grimsby.
So far, Pipan is running her business solo. She makes the arrangements, delivers orders, sometimes picks up hard to find flowers at wholesalers in Toronto, and before Hamilton entered the red stage, she was delivering her arrangements to special events.
While she had worked in event planning previously, Pipan always wanted a retail site. She looked forward to interacting with customers, and the experience of being part of a business community. Her neighbours on James Street North have been welcoming and supportive. Architects Hair Design stocks her bouquets and Castelli Cucina restaurant ordered flowers for special events.
As the Covid restrictions ebb and flow, Pipan has had to adjust her plans.
Workshops on flower arranging are on hold, and the goal of offering “work space” among the flowers is paused.
But the approach of Christmas will be good for business, with people buying seasonal greens in record numbers, Pipan is ramping up her production of wreaths and offering of fresh evergreens for container arrangements.
A welcome idea for anyone suffering from pandemic gloom is Pipan’s upcoming plan for a floral subscription-where flowers will be delivered on a regular basis. She’s putting the finishing touches on that service as well as a delivery of gift boxes containing a plant, and other locally made goods she sells in the store including soap, candles and jewelry.
Gather Floral & Events is open Thursday through Sunday at 320 James Street North. It’s best to check the website for updated hours and shopping information at-gatherfloral.ca or follow on Instagram @gather.floral.events