In order to learn about the creative minds behind our handcrafted arrangements, we interviewed Sarah Annunziato who is featured in our Local Artisan Collection. From the daily life as a florist to some of the inspiration behind her arrangements, Sarah talks about her favorite holidays, arrangements, her family & more!
How did you get into the flower business and what do you love best about being a florist?
When I was in my sophomore year of high school a bunch of my friends and I got an after school job at a local florist near our high school. I started out by sweeping the floors and learning to answer the phones and process the flowers that came in. I stayed at that same local shop quickly picking up being able to talk with and help customers and learned to design simple floral arrangements, which after sticking with it for a while developing into lead designer and store manager. My friends all went off to college on different career paths as I stayed behind in my home town and continued to work at that same shop part time while I attended a local college for graphic design and digital photography, when half way through the semester I realized how bored I was during the classes and how I couldn’t wait to get back to the flower shop because it was my happy place. Which eventually lead to me leaving school and working full time and taking over the day to day management of the flower shop. I stayed there for years until I moved to New Jersey and quickly found a new flower shop and made new friends and made connections with new customers and gained more insight to different design styles from my co-workers there. I worked at three flower shops in New Jersey over 8 years and then decided to move to Florida, again quickly finding a local flower shop to make my “home” in successfully. I felt so passionate about talking to customers and hearing their stories and laughing with them or crying with them. I fell in love with my career at an early age and here 17 years later, I’m back home in New York, and I still love to learn new design techniques and learn new things every day. There’s a saying “It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together” and I couldn’t be happier doing what I do every day.
What are your favorite flowers?
It’s very hard to choose favorites because I truly adore flowers but if I had to choose they would probably be, Hyacinth, Peonies, and Sweet Pea.
Can you tell us a little bit about NY? What is your favorite thing about living there?
I grew up here and I moved around a lot when I was younger, but for me as a single mom, coming back home to NY last year and being close to my family and friends means that when I think of NY I think of love and family. I live on the same street as a lot of my family members and my other neighbors are all so friendly and we all look out for each other. My daughter and I started over fresh here and I know I picked out the best place for her to grow up. Out of all the places I’ve been on the east coast, Long Island, NY is definitely my favorite place to be.
What has been the most rewarding experience during your florist tenure?
Hearing warm appreciative feedback from my customers is the most rewarding experience for sure. The one that sticks out in my mind is when I was working in a flower shop in New Jersey and a woman from Virginia traveled up to plan and attend her younger sisters’ funeral. It was very sad and this woman was one of the pickiest customers I had ever met, but I sat down with her with a box of tissues and surrounded by inspiration books and I think I must have pulled out every flower from the cooler to give her visuals of how the combinations would look. I wasn’t getting frustrated I was so happy to be able to plan such a meaningful memorial with her. In the end (hours later) she walked out and gave me a huge hug and thanked me for helping her and for listening to all the funny stories she told me about her little sister. After we finished designing all the funeral pieces and delivering them, we came back to the shop and I didn’t think I’d here from her again being that was not from New Jersey and was going to be traveling back down to Virginia. The next morning, I went in to work and opened up the shop and saw the voicemail blinking and checked it. I had to listen to it a few times because it meant so much to me that she took time to give me a call and leave me a heartwarming message of how proud she was of how beautiful the memorial service turned out and how she “couldn’t have done it without me”. She said she was ranting and raving about our flower shop and how helpful I was and how passionate and caring and understanding I was to make sure every detail of her arrangements were perfect. Little things like that make it worth it and hearing that you made a difference and brought happiness during such a sad time for a family means a lot.
What is the weirdest thing you have seen or experienced during your floral career?
There has been a few crazy times in my career. A lot of wild times, but the first one that came to my mind was when I was working at a local flower shop and a gentleman had called the shop but had called the wrong phone number. I was talking to him and he thought he was calling for special pickup, I advised him that he was calling a flower shop, and he laughed. We kept talking and he was explaining how his wife had been bugging him to get rid of the old sofa in the basement and she was mad at him for procrastinating so long. Well, I ended up being able to talk him into sending his wife flowers that day to apologize for taking so long, as well as finding the correct phone number for the special pickup! He was a return customer many times over and he’d ask to speak to me to “order a special pickup”. Haha!
What is your favorite floral occasion?
Each holiday is different, but I love the big flower holidays! (Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day) I love the energy in the shop during that time even though it always gets crazy. I love the pressure and the excitement of a packed store and rushing to answer the phone and help customers and design bouquets on the spot in front of a waiting customer. Long nights of staying up all night long to finish the orders for the next day, and being with my coworkers shutting down the retail store and blasting music in the shop and dancing in the back design room while we finished everything we could for the night.
What inspired you to design your local exclusive arrangements?
My inspiration came from my 4 (soon to be 5) year old daughter, Gianna. Since she was about 6 months old I’ve been taking her to work with me when I couldn’t find a babysitter. She went from sitting in her stroller sleeping all day when she was a baby to eventually me bringing a clip on high chair and attaching it to my design table and giving her flowers to play with while I worked, and then eventually teaching her to sweep up behind me as the floor got dirty! (Haha!) So, when I came up with this design, I had her in mind and she was so used to seeing so many types of bouquets and vases and baskets, I thought “what’s different?” and “what would impress her?” and when I thought of it, I knew that would be something playful and cute that she would love… and she does!
What is your favorite Local Exclusive design that you’ve made and why?
I don’t know if I have a favorite, I like to try new concepts and designs and test them out to see customers’ reactions and then go from there. I love to design wildflower arrangements and fresh and funky looking bouquets that stand out from the grocery store bouquets.
What do you love most about your local community?
I love running into people I know everywhere I go in the community. Some are friends others are customers.
What are some “Fun Facts” that your customers don’t know about you?
I love craziness! I love the feeling of being stressed out and problem solving and the rush of busy holidays and my favorite thing to do when I’m designing is playing some good music and dancing while I work!
What makes you smile?
Hearing my daughter laugh.
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