Parrish & Grove Botanicals: Blossoming business
-March 1st, 2018
Amanda Parrish and Chelsea Updegrove are friends, co-workers, and business co-owners who have been sharing their love of flowers and houseplants with the Spokane community for just over a year.
The two women are what some might call peas in a pod, having combined their last names and gardening talents in November 2016 to create Parrish & Grove Botanicals LLC.
The business, which specializes in exotic house plants and flowers, is located in the Saranac Commons building, at 19 W. Main downtown.
“We’re both plant people,” says Parrish. “Between the two of us, we probably take care of up to 100 houseplants either at home or in our jungle-like office.”
Updegrove says she and Parrish also share a belief that fresh flowers and houseplants are capable of adding to environments in a positive way.
“There’s so much research that shows plants reduce anxiety and improve air quality,” she says. “We really believe plants have the power to make a space or brighten someone’s day.”
Both women also work for The Lands Council, a nonprofit located in the building next door to their blossoming business.
“We’ve always thought Saranac Commons is a really unique space,” says Updegrove. “We were having a drink here after work one day, saw the open space, and started brainstorming about what might work well there.”
Originally from San Diego, Parrish has served as The Lands Council’s watershed program director for nine years, while Updegrove, who hails from western Montana, has been the nonprofit’s director of development and communications for four years.
Parrish says the two didn’t originally plan to open the business themselves, but, much like their beloved plants, the idea soon took root.
“The Commons has a very open-air market vibe, but the one thing it didn’t have was fresh flowers,” she says.
“We didn’t really have any experience owning a business, but we submitted a business proposal through the Community Building, and it was accepted.”
Updegrove says starting the business actually turned out to be a harder process than either owner had expected.
“Luckily, Spokane has excellent resources for people looking to start a business,” she says. “We reached out to SCORE, which helped guide us through creating a business plan, as well as things like taxes and licensing information.”
Parrish says the business’s logo incorporates the leaves of a monstera plant, a tropical plant that the shop usually always has in stock.
“I had a really large one at home that I brought in to liven the place up when we first opened, and it just sort of became our mascot,” she says.
The shop occupies just 360 square feet of an 800-square-foot space near the center of the Commons. The rest of that space is occupied by Modern Tipi, a business which sells products and artwork handmade by Native American artists from the Pacific Northwest.
“Saranac Commons is unique in that the businesses here all collaborate and communicate well,” says Updegrove. “What’s good for one is good for everyone, so sharing our space and helping another business grow was something we really wanted to do.”
Parrish says the shop has two employees—one florist and one retail manager—but the owners stop in frequently.
“I’d say we check in at least once a day,” she says. “Sometimes, we help out with operations or deliveries; others, we just drop by to pick out fresh flowers to take home.”
Visitors to the space can buy prearranged bouquets or build their own bouquets or miniature ecosystems at the shop’s terrarium bar.
Parrish says many of the plants the shop sells are grown at Spokane-area greenhouses, while others are shipped in from out of state.
In addition to selling plants, flowers, and terrariums, the shop also offers workshops on floral arrangements, houseplant care, and seasonal botanical projects, such as wreath making.
“We like to think of the business as an experience,” says Parrish. “In the beginning, there was more focus on make-your-own bouquets and terrariums, but now we’ve begun to explore more of what we can offer outside of our brick and mortar space.”
Parrish says the shop’s outside services include a floral subscription service that allows customers to arrange for monthly or weekly deliveries of fresh floral arrangements. It also offers an office plant service that chooses custom office plants to match a workplace.
“Our office plant service helps you choose a plant that will work well in your workspace, based on light and the level of care your staff is able to commit to,” says Updegrove. “We’ve also occasionally done some team-building exercises for businesses.”
Parrish says Parrish & Grove also offers floral arrangements for weddings.“Occasionally, people would ask whether we do wedding bouquets,” says Parrish. “So we started offering that, too, and now we’ve established some good contacts and vendors in the wedding industry that are happy to refer us to brides who are looking for unique pieces.”
Although she declines to disclose revenue, Parrish says the business is doing well this year, and is on track to exceed its goal of increasing revenue by 20 percent over its first year’s total.
She estimates sales in the first weeks of this year are 30 percent higher than they were in the year-earlier period.
“Our growth rate has just been incredible,” she says.
Parrish says houseplants make up about a third of the shop’s annual sales, and flowers and subscription services make up another third.
Updegrove says the remaining third of revenue consists of sales from the shop’s nonliving items, such as planters and cards.
She says the shop also stocks jewelry and essential oil perfumes handmade by local and regional artists.
“We really enjoy supporting and creating relationships with artists,” she says. “So we do stock batches of items from small companies and individuals whose work we love.”
Updegrove and Parrish say they estimate only about 15 percent of their customers visit the shop regularly.
“We have some who really enjoy the shop and can’t wait to check out our new inventory,” says Parrish. “But overall, we’re still new enough that a lot of people are just discovering us.”
Looking ahead, the two say they’d like to keep expanding the Parrish & Grove’s outside services as much as possible.
“Being a small business means we sometimes have more flexibility in what we’re able to do,” says Updegrove. “I’d like to see us get involved in more farmer’s markets, as well as exploring new creative ways we can contribute to the community.”
Updegrove says one idea she hopes to bring to life later this spring is a “flower tricycle” mobile floral stand.
“We’re working on creating a tricycle that can be driven around town, or up and down the Centennial Trail,” she says. “It’s one of those ideas that goes along with the vibe of a fresh market, bringing flowers to people wherever they are.”
Outside of the typical big floral holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, Parrish says it’s sometimes hard to anticipate upcoming trends in the industry.
“Now that we’ve grown a bit, we have more data to help us predict some things,” she says. “But what’s really helped us is having a lot of diverse revenue streams so that when demand for one service is slow, the others make up for it.”
For example, Parrish says the summer months are when foot traffic at the shop declines the most, but at the same time, demand for wedding bouquets and arrangements picks up.
“We have a lot going on, but we still try to make our services as personalized as possible, which our customers really seem to appreciate,” she says.
Both Parrish and Updegrove say working with flowers and plants is more than just a job for them.
“We love working with and being surrounded by flowers,” says Parrish. “We’re passionate and informed about them, and it’s a delight to share that knowledge with our customers.”
Updegrove says helping customers gain confidence in their abilities to care for plants is the best part of running a botanical shop.
“Being able to help someone who doubts their ability to nurture and care for a plant is a great feeling,” she says. “When they’re able to find the right plant, they come back so much more confident and happy.”