Location: 428-B Haywood Road, West Asheville
Owner: Melissa Thomas
Soft natural light floods in the brick and mortar space, casting shadows on succulents and glinting off glass terrariums scattered throughout. Walls are fully lined with vintage botanical prints and the scent of fresh flowers and living plants greets you as you enter through the threshold. This seemingly fictional place is Flora, a locally owned floral design and gift boutique in West Asheville, owned and run by the visionary and savvy Melissa Thomas.
Melissa was first introduced to (and fell in love with) the botanical arts, while working for a flower shop and greenhouse in the summers between high school. She went in and out of the industry for years. Only when she did florals for a friend's wedding did she realize that owning and operating a full-fledged business was viable. And then she took the leap...
Flora opened its doors in 2012, and has been growing and evolving ever since. It's not surprising to see that Flora has done so well. Yes, a lot of time and hard-work have gone into the business, but what makes it interesting and good, is that a lot of Melissa has gone into the business. She is vibrant and energetic, with a magnetic personality and a keen eye for texture, color and detail. Armed with a deep knowledge of all things with roots, stems and leaves and an alarming amount of talent, Melissa creates arrangements and curates shop offerings that push the envelope in just the right way, making you stop and say "wow."
Intrigued? Read more below.
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, what you did prior opening Flora.
The first job I had out of high school was at a local flower shop. I processed flowers, cleaned out coolers, washed buckets, wrapped flowers in green tissue paper and made your traditional ribbon bows. I also worked at a local greenhouse in the summers making hanging moss baskets and I believe that it was during this time that I fell in love with the botanical arts. I went on to dabble in lots of different medians and before Flora began I was thinking about doing restoration and decorative painting.
Q. Why did you decide to start your own business and how did you define what that would be?
I did an event for a friend and a local planner saw my work and the calls started coming in. It was over years that the concept of Flora was designed. From that first job, I started to dream up Flora. I had always thought that if I had flower shop, I would call it Flora, and that it would be simple. Soon after, however, I found myself knee deep in the wedding industry I knew of its true complexity and knew if I wanted Flora to succeed it would have to built with a collective people working towards the same goal.
Q. What have been the biggest obstacles, or most difficult aspects of starting and maintaining Flora?
Finding a balance between work and personal has been the biggest struggle.
Q. What have been your biggest successes?
Finding such wonderful team to be a part of. We are such a small business and we all work so closely together that it is super important to have good working relationships.
Q. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Hire to your weaknesses.
Q. What is your dream client/job/event?
I love doing weddings when the couple isn’t side tracked by all the details and keeps their focus on what the purpose of the wedding is. I think in the market today it is easy to feel that pressure as a Bride to produce an amazing wedding. I make my living off those details but it is nice to see a couple/family remember what the journey is really about.
Q. What is it like working with a team of employees? How has it changed your business?
It is great to have a team. It certainly has changed things from being me alone in my home studio. I am thankful for the change and am looking forward to the growth of Flora and our team getting bigger and stronger.
Q. Where do you go for inspiration or trends? Any go-to blogs, websites, stores, or Instagram feeds?
Hmmmmm…. so many spots ~ of course Pinterest, Magnolia Rouge, Green Wedding Shoes, 100 Layer Cake, etc... Honestly there are so many good spots to go to and see great work that finding inspiration online is easier than ever. However, the best spot to find inspiration in our field is to go outside. In the garden, woods, mountains, etc… that is where it can really become something that we built.
Q. What are your current favorite shop pieces? And/Or what are your top three favorite flowers/plants and why?
The tiny hot houses (wardian cases) our new candle lines (they smells so good) our flowers (of course, it changes daily so is always exciting). Favorite flowers is an impossible question to answer. My favorite flowers in my garden are Fritillaria, Forget-me-nots and Toad Lilies. My three favorite plants in the shop right now are Fiddle-Leaf Fig, Zandoo, and Strawberry Begonia.
Q. Any favorite Asheville makers, shops, restaurants, bars, etc. right now?
A. Not to sound silly but I really love what you ladies are doing. 7 Ton is a great addition to our neighborhood and to the event industry. I love what our neighbors up the way at The Dry Goods Shop are doing as well.
Q. And, one from left field. If you were a drink, what drink would you be and why?
A. Mojito, simple and refreshing and I of course love that it has a fresh herb in it.