Celebrating Local Women in Business
As part of my ever growing quest to connect with local businesses around Iowa, I was invited to stop by the newly opened Willow & Stock, by co-owners Amber Neville and Angela Barnett. Naturally, I had some questions and towards the end of our session sat down (or in this case stood) with Angela who gave me the scoop on their new venture and answered some of my growing curiosities.
Sisi: So, when did you two first open Willow & Stock?
Angela: We opened on September 1st of this last year, 2017.
Sisi: How do you like it so far?
Angela: It's been amazing, we thought it was going to be well received in the neighborhood because we are filling a niche in the downtown area. We thought it was a great location, the space lends itself really well to a floral shop. Everyone has been so supportive, people in the community that find us are so excited we are here, even college students that live in the area are excited there is a place they can go to get fresh cut flowers....so it's been really great. We really had a positive outlook when we opened the business and I think our expectations have definitely been met and more. We are thrilled to be in this space every day, it's so beautiful. There were certain things that we didn't really know how it was going to go...with our concept of trying to embrace more local the better we had no idea what that ment or what that would really look like going forward because we didn't know local farmers. You know, so we reached out to a couple of people and other people have been reaching out to us.
Sisi: That's amazing.
Angela: You know what I mean? It's those kinds of things that start to happen that you're like 'okay this is completely right, it's all falling into place in such a beautiful way,'
Sisi: So are all of your flowers locally sourced?
Angela: So in the winter months, unfortunately, it's more difficult to make that happen in Iowa, so we get stuff through our wholesalers that are grown in the continental united states. A lot of stuff is coming from Washington State, California, Florida and some even in the upper midwest grown in greenhouses but for the most part, California is the big place. So we are coming into our spring and summer season which we haven't even experienced yet so we're super excited about that, but last fall we were getting stuff from probably five or six local vendors, and I mean all local female farmers for the most part.
Sisi: So, why local...what does that mean to you?
Angela: Well it means a smaller carbon footprint, it makes sense to support local farmers so we can keep the money in the community and then there are all these other benefits that come with it that we didn't even realize, things are cut on that day, put in water and are so fresh. You know what I mean? We had no idea! And the price is even lower than anywhere else because you're not paying for all that freight, you're not paying for all that time where it has to be cut and boxed and shipped from South America. Which, it's like 60% of the fresh cut flowers in this country come from South America because the growing conditions are perfect -- specifically for roses I guess but a lot of flowers because they have a lot of warmth and sunshine and then it's cool in the evenings. So yeah, having someone come from a local farm, and she comes in with her little toddler daughter and she's wearing her big hiking boots and has dirt under her fingernails and has cut those flowers for us that day...it's just awesome. We love supporting the community and in turn, other people want to support us because we are supporting the farmers that are in the community so it totally makes sense, every bit of it is so cool. Like I was saying before our farmers for the most part...95% of them are women.
Willow & Stock
207 North Linn St.,
Iowa City, Iowa 52245
Sisi: I love that.
Angela: So it's like we are women-owned and then we have these kick-butt women farmers who are like toiling the land and bringing us these awesome flowers...
Sisi: Yes, that's like the dream - would love to live on a farm and grow nothing but flowers...so beautiful.
Angela: Oh, I know! A few of the farmers also sell at the farmers market so they are coming to town a couple times a week for that and it's so easy.
It's really awesome to just see that quality and it's being grown just a little bit up the road. We also know a couple of organic farmers that are having bees on their property and that's where we are getting the honey. I mean we are really open to anything that we think our customers are going to embrace, so we are doing the honey and some other things. We are doing firewood with a local gal who has a farm just outside of town and the proceeds for that are going to a group that rehabilitates raptors and puts them back out into nature and stuff.
Sisi: Oh, like R.A.R.E?
Angela: Yes! That couple, they are a part of R.A.R.E, they were actually one of the groups that came to us and they called and were like 'how do we do this, how do we become a vendor for you?' and I was like 'This is it! This is it right now! We are talking, that's the first step!'
Sisi: Yes! This is all so important, this is what our community needs, absolutely.
Angela: It's really cool.
Sisi: So, now a little more about weddings....what are some new flower trends that you have been keeping up on?
Angela: Okay, so big garden-y, really like a hand-picked not-manicured look. Really full, really lush and lots of greenery. Anything with eucalyptus is super hot right now and the amazing thing with the greenery industry is for at least the last decade it's just been growing exponentially for what is available in fresh-cut greens and foliage because everyone is so into it. So everything green is so popular and the eucalyptus family is huge, you've got so many varieties of just shapes and textures...you could do a bouquet of just eucalyptus and it would be gorgeous; then you've got the blooms to go with it but they create the lush story. Everything is huge and if you start to look at like some of the bridal magazines it's just like these bouquets are just going back to that, big and showy, not fussy. Not modern, just like a really old school garden looks, almost like the old Dutch paintings that are just full.
Sisi: So as flowers go, what can we expect to be in stock this spring? Anything special?
Angela: Everything that you're gonna see outside blooming here in Iowa City...forsythia branches, all of your bulbs that are gonna come up...your tulips, hyacinth, allium, even Lilly of the Valley. Lilly of the Valley is awesome, they are super petit, pungent, fragrant but they do not store well or ship as a cut flower...so since we'll have local people growing them we'll be able to have those. So those, peonies, some of the stuff we aren't even sure of yet - snapdragons, different asters, ranunculus -- our girl from Van Horne will be working on those in the greenhouse because they are really fussy -- dahlias, zinnias, tons of sunflowers which are great. Everyone loves sunflowers.....we're looking forward to all of that...lisianthus! It's a learning curve for us too so we're gonna learn and see and experience it.