The Fort Langley native is nothing if not inventive. That’s relayed not just in the fact that she creates bouquets for a living but also in how she got her start
Alice de Crom has always loved flowers (her parents owned a greenhouse when she was young), so after graduating high school, she enrolled in the only florist class she could find, about an hour away at Kerrisdale’s famed Thomas Hobbs.
Meanwhile, de Crom was working part-time at a local Starbucks, where she displayed her arrangements on the counter. As luck would have it, an impressed customer who just happened to own a flower shop put her to work.
After a year of more or less running the place, de Crom decided she was best off being her own boss. She convinced her mom to buy a work-live spot and opened Floralista (contrary to popular belief, the name wasn’t born out of her barista experience; she just liked it) in the 500-square-foot (if we’re being charitable) space, just off Fort Langley’s main strip. About six years later, de Crom oversees three staff and a wildly popular Instagram account that helps drive business to the always-packed store.
6:00 a.m. Mornings start early for Floralista’s owner, who often makes her way to United Flower Growers Co-op in Burnaby. At the continent’s largest Dutch-style flower auction, de Crom (who is of Dutch ancestry) and the other 60 or so vendors sit in what looks like a lecture hall, using their laptops to bid on select items wheeled by on trolleys.
As she clicks on different offerings, a chime on her computer signals her winning bids for daisies and chrysanthemums. But she really has her eye on a batch of salmon-coloured tulips, which have been selling well at the store.
“When I first started, it was really intimidating….Sometimes people start whistling or making remarks when people overpay,” says de Crom, who always sits in the same seat–three rows up on the left. “Anyone can walk in, but you have to have an account and be a florist to actually bid.”
Although it’s possible to participate from home, she notes that there’s nothing like seeing flowers up close, especially during wedding season, when she works on about 70 ceremonies a year. “If I was doing it at home, I’d just get a stock image of what it is; sometimes it’s accurate, sometimes not at all.”
De Crom misses out on the tulips (“Noooo,” she quietly laments), but she’ll spend close to $700 on flowers in a couple of hours. Within a week, she’ll sell them all.
8:00 a.m. To collect her winnings, de Crom rolls across the warehouse like a seasoned vet, looking for her number on the pots and taking her flowers off the trolleys. She strolls through the different shops that have been set up in the back, greeting everyone she passes. Eventually she’ll settle on a couple of vases that will accentuate today’s purchases.
10:00 a.m. Back at the store, de Crom, her two designers and her business development manager prepare for opening. On a busy summer day, the small shopfront will see about 100 customers. Today doesn’t promise to be that crazy, which is good, as the quartet have to cut and arrange the morning’s haul.
“There’s always that challenge of having a sweet spot where you’re not completely selling out and you don’t have a good selection for people when they come in the store, but you’re rotating stuff through enough so that everything is fresh,” de Crom says. “It’s a perishable product, and it’s pretty expensive. So there’s quite a bit of risk if you’re overbuying and it’s not busy.”
Lunch When she gets a second to put down the stems, de Crom often heads over to a Fort Langley favourite, Wendel’s Bookstore and Cafe. She also likes to check in on the renovation of her new space—a former dentist’s office, three times the size of the current location. The place is set to open this month, but there’s still a decent amount of work left to do when we pop by. On the street, Floralista’s popularity is apparent: several people stop de Crom and tell her they’ll visit the shop later today. “We’re pretty well known,” she says. “There’s a competitor in town now, but I don’t think that will be too much of an issue.”
2:00 p.m. De Crom spends much of the afternoon organizing the many weddings and other events she has on the docket. That involves one-on-one consultations with clients to decide colour schemes and arrangements. Right now she’s in something of a bind–a customer is planning a multicoloured theme for her nuptials and would like the flowers to reflect that. “Not my typical bride, I’d say; they’re usually a little more subtle,” de Crom acknowledges. “We’re not sure exactly how to handle it yet, because it’s quite out of my regular style. I feel like I could use it as a challenge, and I know I could make something cool.” It wouldn’t be the first time she defied expectations.