The foundation of our local communities are its residents and businesses. We here at Main Street love nothing more than spreading their stories and the mantra of local as well as supporting local. With that in mind, we were excited to have a chance to learn more about Amanda Zick and Margaret (Greta) Anderson of A+M Flower Co., who are not just located in the heart of Pine Plains, NY, but that heart is at the center of their blooming business.
Who are Amanda and Margaret?
AZ: We are neighbors and friends living in the heart of the village of Pine Plains with our families, dogs, and flower gardens. We both grew up on dairy farms – me in Brunswick, NY, and Margaret right here in Pine Plains. I spent my summer fridays through high school earning cash by cutting flowers for a local flower farmer, and I’ve grown a small cutting garden for myself ever since.
I’m the planner of our duo, “Queen of the Spreadsheet,” and in charge of all things scheduling, sorting, and seed starting. Margaret, who goes by “Greta” and gets her love of gardening and flowers naturally! Greta’s mother and aunt have beautiful flower gardens, and she seriously caught the flower bug in the last couple of years – there’s been no stopping her since. Greta is the “get things done” partner – willing to try anything, dig all the holes, and has a true eye for design and creativity in arrangements.
How did the idea for this business come about? When did you start it and why?
GA: 2021 was our first season. We each individually expanded our gardens during the summer of 2020 when we were all stuck at home because of COVID-19. We bonded over our shared love of cut flowers and our mutual desire for a creative outlet. After admiring each others’ flowers all summer and talking about our favorite flower influencers, I floated the idea to Amanda that I was hoping to set up a roadside stand the following year and see how it went. Amanda knew that if there was going to be a flower stand outside her house all summer, she couldn’t just sit back and watch. So, she agreed to help out and offered to try it out as a partnership.
Is this your full-time job?
AZ: No. At the time that we were brainstorming and planning out the idea of A+M Flower Co. we were both working full-time jobs. I’m in government, and Greta in nursing. We are still working full-time, non-flower jobs, although Greta is in between jobs at the moment. We were and are both generally satisfied with our jobs, but were looking for a way to flex our creative muscles that our jobs didn’t exercise. Since we were both dabbling with our individual cut flower gardens and arranging our homegrown blooms for ourselves and our friends, it seemed like the perfect fit.
What is A+M Flower Co? What type of business is it, what products do you have, how does it work?
GA: After our experimental 2021 season was a bigger success than we expected, we decided to formalize the business idea, expand and upgrade going into this year for our 2022 season. A+M Flower Co. started out primarily as a roadside flower stand selling seasonal bouquets with a limited bouquet subscription program on the side. This year we are continuing to stock our Flower Cart, which I have completely redesigned and refreshed. It will be stationed at its usual location at the corner of Academy Street and East Church St. (199 E) in Pine Plains, NY. We are continuing with our Bouquet Subscription program, which we offer in five week sessions, one in each season: Spring, Summer, and Fall. Each session gets you a fresh hand tied mixed bouquet of whatever flowers and foliage is in season at that moment. It’s a convenient way to bring fresh flowers into your home on a routine basis and keep you grounded by the natural rhythms of the seasons.
Additionally, this season we are offering a limited series of events such as Bouquet Bars, which are kind of like Paint and Sips, but with flower arranging instead of painting. We are really excited to be partnering with a long-time Pine Plains institution, Lia’s Mountain View Restaurant, to host these events. You will be able to find out the details of these events on our website or by joining our email list. Also, we are always open for special orders for custom arrangements on a limited local basis.
All of your flowers are grown right in the middle of Pine Plains – is that important? How does that work and make you different?
AZ: Our local community is very important to us. We both love this little town and are raising our kids here. There are so many reasons why keeping our flowers local was the right fit for us. First, traditionally, most of the flowers that are sold in the US are either imported or shipped domestically over long distances. In the age of climate change we knew we didn’t want to contribute to that system. There has been a trend in the floral industry in the last few years that pushes for more local and seasonal flowers – and we’re thrilled to be a part of that shift in what we feel is the right direction. And we are so excited to see many other local flower growers and florists making that shift as well.
Second, we live and work here in Pine Plains and our kids go to school here. We want to strengthen and grow (pun intended) our local community and bring beautiful locally-grown flowers to our neighbors here.
Third, it just keeps it simple. If we grow locally and sell locally, it limits the amount of storage we need, it limits the “flower miles” our blooms need to travel, and it allows us to keep our prices affordable for everyone, which is really important to us.
What kind of flowers do you grow and sell throughout the seasons?
GA: We grow and forage everything we sell from right here in Pine Plains. The vast majority from our own backyards, though we wouldn’t necessarily call them gardens. It is closely planted and intensely monitored specifically for harvesting cut flowers. We amend the soil with natural compost that we buy locally, manure from my family’s farm, as well as diluted fish emulsions.
We specialize in annuals, though we are slowly adding more perennials. We hope to shift at least half of our flowers to perennials.
We sell many different varieties throughout the seasons including: Spring – daffodils, tulips, anemones, ranunculus, Iceland poppies, peonies, and tall bearded iris. Summer – rudbeckia, larskpur, strawflowers, snapdragons, cosmos, celoisa, ageratum, asters, gomphrena, lisianthus, and zinnias. Fall – dahlias, dahlias, dahlias! And also everything from the summer season that is still cranking out blooms.
Do you do special requests – events like weddings – or is it purely subscriptions and the Flower Cart?
AZ: Yes! We haven’t yet expanded into large weddings or events, but we are doing our second small wedding party bouquets and boutonnieres this month in June. We are happy to consider smaller events such as private parties, anniversaries, engagement parties, bridal or baby showers.
Is your business just in the summer, or is it two seasons? Three seasons?
GA: Honestly, it’s a year-round business though our main sales season is roughly May through October, which correlates to the growing season here locally. In the late fall, we are digging and dividing our dahlia tubers and prepping them for storage, we are cleaning up our gardens and putting them to bed for winter, and we are pulling out the flowers we have set aside to dry during the hot summer and working on dried flower arrangements and wreaths. In the winter, we are business planning for the next season, pouring over seed catalogs, making wish lists of which varieties we want to grow in the next season, and resting up for the big spring planting. In early spring we are starting seeds, prepping our garden beds with compost and landscape fabric, planting annuals and tending to our perennials, not to mention updating our online marketing and social media in every season.
What kind of flowers can one buy – bouquets, special order, pick your own, or what you have at any time? How does the subscription and Flower Cart work?
AZ: Our focus is mostly on mixed bouquets of whatever is in season at the moment. We primarily sell through our bouquet subscription and our Flower Cart. The Flower Cart has recently had an upgrade and a refresh and we couldn’t be more excited about it! It will be located on the corner of Academy St. and East Church St. (Rt. 199), and the hours will be limited and announced on our website and via our email newsletter.
What are your most popular and best selling flowers?
GA: I think the beauty of flowers is that everyone loves something different. I would say our mixed bouquets sell the best, although this past Mother’s Day weekend the simple bunches of tulips went like HOT CAKES! Maybe by this time next year we will have a more definitive answer for that.
Who does what in your duo?
GA: I personally LOVE this question. When this partnership began I was just thinking of throwing some seeds in the ground and making pretty bouquets. Little did I know what a big surprise awaited me. Amanda is the planner in our duo. She does everything from deciding what types of flowers to plant, colors of flowers to plant, when to plant, how many to plant, when to order seeds or bulbs, and anything else you can imagine. She is the SPREADSHEET QUEEN and she absolutely loves it. I think (Amanda can say otherwise) that she absolutely loves to see her plans come to life.
For Amanda, the planning phase is a way to showcase her creative talents. As for me and as previously mentioned, I am the “doer” in our duo. This is not to say that Amanda is not, but this is the part where I can be most helpful. My organization/planning skills are not at the level of Amanda’s, and so I make myself useful with everything else. I do everything from digging holes to bringing in compost, harvesting and putting together bouquets. I absolutely LOVE arranging flowers, and could do it all day long.
Who are your customers, how do they find you and how do you reach them? Are your customers mostly around Pine Plains or further afield?
AZ: Our customers are nearly all local to the Pine Plains area. We do have some Flower Cart customers who stop by as they are driving through, but the vast majority are our neighbors, teachers at our local schools, nurses, other small business owners, local retirees, etc. We are actively trying to reach more customers this season, but last season was primarily through social media and word-of-mouth.
What have been some of your challenges since starting your business? Are your challenges mostly weather-related?
GA: Weather is always a major challenge. This year we’ve had a very cool, late spring which was great for our tulips that held off until Mother’s Day – which is our biggest flower sales holiday. In more average years, most of our tulips would be already past by Mother’s Day. However, with our changing climate there seems like there is no such thing as an “average year” anymore. Last summer we had so much rain that we never had to use our irrigation, but other years we hardly get any rain. The only predictable thing about the weather is that it is guaranteed to be unpredictable.
What is your favorite part of the business, and what has been the biggest challenge?
AZ: My favorite part of the business is the planning and marketing aspects. I love starting seeds and harvesting flowers in the early morning or after putting the kids to bed.
GA: My favorite is definitely creating the bouquets, and seeing the joy on a customer’s face when they see their arrangement. My perfect morning is going out early with my coffee to pick flowers, and then arranging them. The biggest challenge has been finding the time to do it all though. With full-time jobs and young kids at home, making time for everything and balancing all the demands on our attention is challenging to say the least.
What is your favorite flower and why?
Both: That’s like asking to chose a favorite child – we love them all! Although I suppose we do have some that we love more than others…
AZ: For me, it is daffodils, tulips, English Garden Roses, zinnias, and dahlias.
GA: For me, it is … it depends on the day and season. All of the flowers we grow have their moment so it’s impossible to pick a favorite. I guess if you twisted my arm I would say peonies are up there as one if my all-time favorites. They are just stunning from start to finish, and create amazing bouquets. More recently, I’ve found a new love for poppies and cosmos. Both have a whimsical feel, and add such charm and beauty to a mixed bouquet, or on their own.
To learn more about Amanda and Greta and their A+M Flower Co., visit them online at www.amflowerco.com or stop by their Flower Cart at the corner of Academy Street and East Church St., (Rt. 199) in Pine Plains, NY.