When Queen Anne’s Metropolitan Market closed last spring, it left a void in the area. Residents lost a destination where they could find a plethora of local products, which included its floral selection. Queen Anne residents Laurie Gardner and Colin Stewart took it upon themselves to fill that void by opening Pistil Floral Design.
Pistil, which draws its name from the female reproductive part of a flower, opened just three weeks ago at 1422 Queen Anne Ave. N. For five years, Gardner had a studio on Taylor Street, supplying flowers for weddings and other events. Now, she has expanded that to the retail space that used to be Marquise Fine Jewelry.
“I don’t think people really knew what it was going to be before we opened the door,” Gardner said.
Gardner has 20-plus years of experience in floral design, but this is her first venture into a retail store. Her studio was by appointment only and not open to the public, so the shop provides her with a new experience.
While Gardner still supplies for bigger events, Pistil focuses on daily deliveries and foot-traffic purchases.
Filling a need
Once Met Market closed, she was ready for the opportunity to serve Queen Anne.
“We needed a flower shop up here,” Gardner said. “I even miss Met Market.”
In addition to flowers, Pistil also carries plants and specialty housewares.
Before Pistil’s opening, there weren’t any flower shops in Queen Anne. Met Market’s competition in terms of flowers came from Ravenna Gardens, which closed in 2007.
Going to grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s and Safeway is an option, but Pistil distinguishes itself by providing local products.
A year and a half ago, a grower’s market opened in Washington state, which has been Gardner’s main source for buying her flowers — something that most grocery-store floral departments can’t claim.
“I think a lot of Queen Anne is into the ‘shop local, be local’ [mentality],” Gardner said, “and grocery-store flowers are not beautiful. I can offer…individual arrangements for individual people. It’s not just what’s in a plastic wrap-up, and it’s not just 10 different kinds of flowers.”
Stewart doesn’t boast the same floral résumé as Gardner, but he did much of the interior work for the shop. That includes constructing the large back wall — made completely of recycled palette wood — and some of the furniture.
Prior to his involvement, Stewart confessed, he wasn’t aware of any difference between grocery-store flowers and Pistil’s. But it didn’t take long for him to see what separates the two.
“I’d go quite happily to Safeway and buy $20 roses,” Stewart said. “But if you see the difference between the roses here and the roses there, it’s immense. It’s not just a small difference.”
Other businesses benefiting
Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce president Lauren Formicola shared Gardner and Stewart’s disappointment with Met Market closing, but she believes Pistil will fit right into the marketplace in the area.
“The more shops that open, the more pedestrian traffic we get and the better off it is for the community,” Formicola said.
She also pointed out that while losing Met Market was unfortunate, it has made it easier for the smaller commercial businesses in Queen Anne to thrive. Now being the only flower shop in the area, Pistil may be among those that find greater success.
“A lot of the smaller businesses are picking up new business since the Met Market went out, because people have to shop at the smaller markets if they like that small, independent-type look, which is what the Met provided,” Formicola said. “So, now, the other businesses are feeling a surge.”
Local companies like Pistil aren’t the only ones that have seen benefits. Safeway manager Amanda Chavez said that its floral sales have increased by roughly 50 percent since Met Market’s closure.
Chavez was unaware that Pistil had entered the Queen Anne marketplace and doesn’t believe that a specialty floral store will substantially affect Safeway’s flower sales.
A perfect time to open
Opening in late January was the perfect time for Pistil. In addition to the normal curiosity associated with a new shop, it conveniently fell close to Valentine’s Day.
It wasn’t totally a coincidence that Gardner and Stewart decided to open when they did.
“I figured it’s a positive way to make a good clientele,” Gardner said. “You give them something beautiful for Valentine’s Day, and they’ll be a returning customer.”
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