Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A New Crop of Businesses on Montana Avenue

-SANTA MONICA, California

Here in this quiet beach town in LA County there is a sign that the economy is improving. This neighborhood’s main shopping street had as many as 30 vacant store fronts last year in the seven block stretch, and slowly some new shops are opening up. Recently four have opened that all offer garden-related items or cut flowers and each has a unique focus.

H&H or Household Horticulture has been opened for a few years but they recently re-branded themselves from a name that did not clearly identify their trade: Hoot & Heart. They take a modern yet rustic approach to garden décor, plants, and containers with a flower studio at the back of the shop. Just one block away Stephanie Grace’s ‘Petals, Parties & Gifts’ refers to themselves as a “full service event production firm”. One imagines Stephanie will or could handle at least one big Oscar after-party next week. The target customer being the well-to-do brides that want every detail managed for them. The shop, her third location displays fine dinnerware place settings along with formal wedding gifts for the home. Just recently they started merchandising cut flowers out on the sidewalk perhaps as a test to attract a walk-in business.

The Language of Flowers (and santamonicaflowers.com) is a tiny florist where for years the former owner displayed nothing more than old knickknacks and philodendrons in the window- a small television was the most prominent feature then with a few mums mixed in. Perhaps when the analog TV signal died- so too did the old business. The newly renovated space was opened up and is bright & quite cheerful. I suspect this is the neighborhood favorite since there are always people inside and it’s directly across from the school pick-up area.

The last to arrive was Inner Gardens. Here they cater to the decorating professional with big garden ornament, landscaping & design commissions, old furniture and antiques suitable for enormous homes. Mix in some unusual orchids and you get the picture. A second showroom is in West Hollywood, the main nursery is in Culver City.

I admire the ambition to open a flower related business in a time where the dot.com way of sending flowers direct via Fed-Ex has hurt so many independent flower shops. Add that to two nice supermarkets on the street that sell flowers too and there is bound to be some healthy competition this spring. With competition often comes innovation so I’ll enjoy watching and reporting on their progress in the next few months.





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