Starting an independently owned business is no easy task. In order for it to really flourish and launch successfully, one needs to be willing to listen their inner curiosity and step fearlessly into the unknown. Kelli, the floral designer of Hops Petunia, experienced a series of unexpected events which lead to the decision to open her own shop. It was the time spent working at a floral shop as a teenager that Kelli reflected on in fond remembrance that confirmed being the creative director of Hops Petunia in the heart of Kingston, N.Y., was the dream path life was gearing her towards.
Kelli has a background as a creative director elsewhere, which lends to her floral-magician-like-work. She is also like that one friend who makes you feel both uplifted just being near them, but also gifts you contagious laughter in her presence. Hops Petunia in turn makes you feel relaxed with the scent of spring flowers filling the air. Kelli’s character brings extra pizazz to her already lovely flowers. Even stepping foot into Kelli’s home, the space is filled with beautiful vintage pieces, evoking questions of their backstory. By allowing for nostalgia to hint and re-direct her life’s path back to floral arranging, Kelli is sharing what it means for her to live your color.
May 18, 2016
1. Where did you grow up and how did it shape who you are today?
I grew up in Southeast Michigan, in a suburb south of Detroit. I could probably go into a long dissertation of how my hometown shaped me, but I’ll try to keep it short. Detroit, for a long time had a bad reputation of being scary and dangerous. Even by us at times, but yet there was always an under current, a beat, literally and figuratively. I grew up seeing some of the best music, dancing in weird basements, bowling alleys, seeing shows in rooms as big as your bedroom. I lived for music, and art so wherever we could find it is where we were. So with that said, I think Detroit taught me to seek out and find great things, to not be afraid of that weird creepy door, there might be something amazing behind it. Michigan in general is a gorgeous state, lots of woods and amazing areas, I grew up being on the water most summers, being in nature, going to friends’ cottages so Upstate NY feels very much like home to me.
I attended College of Creative Studies in Detroit which definitely shaped me in a way that I was a part of the change in that city, the growth, the promise that artists and new things could happen. It’s something that I didn’t realize until recently, it’s why I love Kingston so much. It has all of that hope and promise, and a lot of hard working people trying to make great things.
I also believe that you don’t necessary have to live in the most “hip/trendy” neighborhood to live a meaningful life. It’s what you find behind the creepy doors (I love this expression!). What do you find in common with the Hudson Valley communities (ex: the artists in Kingston) and the people you grew up with in Michigan?
I’d say what I find in common is probably complete openness, there isn’t this veil of competition lurking, people aren’t making art or projects because they want to be rich and famous and show in a gallery in Chelsea, I mean I’m sure they wouldn’t complain if that happened but they have a lot of passion and meaning behind what they do. You have people tucked away in the hills of Hudson Valley who have painting for 50 years and they may not sell a single one, but they keep painting. Detroit is similar in that way too, people work hard on what they love, regardless of what others think. Its about craft and quality before fame and recognition. The people who restore old cars in Michigan are, to me, some seriously talented people, they might not think of themselves as artists but they work really hard and create art in the form of a car. People are just digging into what they love and making it happen, whether its art, food, historical preservation, music, they just keep moving forward.
”I think Detroit taught me to seek out and find great things, to not be afraid of that weird creepy door, there might be something amazing behind it.”
2. How did “Hops Petunia” come to life?
Ohh boy, ok so here we go. I grew up working in flower shops as a teenager, I actually ended up in one by accident, because I was fired from a cafe (I’m just bad at waitressing). And hurriedly got another job, any job, which happened to be cleaning roses and sweeping floors at a florist. One that the owner handed me the keys the night I started and was like “Lock the door on your way out. Close up at 8.” I think about that now and it scares me to death, I couldn’t hand over keys to my shop to a 16 year old and say good luck!
Anyway, a fell in love with it immediately, talking to the customers, seeing their happy faces leave with a bouquet I made. It was great. I ended up in many shops over the course of high school and college, so about 7 years. Then I finished college and went on to be a graphic designer and then a art director. Long story short, I grew tired of design work and lost interest in it because it became more emails than art. It occurred to me I loved to make things with my hands and that flowers made me feel like I was creating something special. So I signed up for a class in Seattle with Amy Merrick and Floret Flowers, another long story, as to how I got there but needless to say I fell in love all over again and it was that weekend in August a few years ago I realized I had to go back.
My husband and I had been teasing about the idea that when we retire we would and open a bar that was a flower shop during the day and we were playing around with names, and and it hit me one day, Hops Petunia, was a great mash up of the two ideas, and people really seemed to remember it and like it.”
3. What motivates you to get up every morning?
I’d say knowing I get to go adventure with my husband, we love driving around and finding weird stuff. But I’d say on a daily basis, I just really love being in my shop, I truly do. I love playing with how it looks and making it feel fresh, creating and practicing flower arrangements is really just my favorite thing.
”Take classes, study with great designers, intern for them, freelance, whatever you can. I learned so much from so many amazing ladies.”
4. What advice would you give to someone who is currently trying to start a flower boutique? What was your first step of your journey?
I’d say take classes, study with great designers, intern for them, freelance, whatever you can. I learned so much from so many amazing ladies. As far as the shop itself, it sort of fell upon me, a dear friend told me about the space and I thought yeah yeah, I can’t do that its too risky, too much money. But it turned out I could do it, and it was super scary but like the good kind of scary, the kind you can’t wait to be in.
5. Could you tell us about the location you chose to photo shoot and why it holds a special place in your heart?
Well our house in Rosendale is very special to us. We bought it before we were even married and we ended up in Rosendale because we saw my favorite band at the Rosendale Cafe about 9 years ago. I remember driving through and thinking this is the greatest, weirdest town, I just loved it.
I always feel so comfortable and “at home” whenever I come visit your shop (and your Rosendale home shared the similar vibe). How do you create the experience that is unique to your shop?
Aww that’s so nice!! And I’m thrilled to hear that because to be honest it was my main goal. I worked in a shop when I was a teenager that was an old barn, and the manager at the time, Mrs Ray, can’t believe I remember that, created just wonderfully cozy nooks and moments within the store. You could spend days going through all the corners and rooms. My space isn’t big enough for that but I made it a priority to create a space people felt really welcome in. I think its about layering and having pieces that are used and worn, like you would have at home. I love a stark clean white, well curated space but I feel like flowers and particularly my flowers feel cozy and warm and I wanted to space to do the same.
As for our home, we tend to buy things we love, or have meaning to us. I could probably tell you a story around almost everything we own so I think maybe that probably bleeds over into the store. I was always in awe of peoples homes that felt like you belonged the second you walked in, so I think that’s been in the back of my mind.
6. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not arranging flowers at your Kingston shop?
As I mentioned before we love to adventure, and find weird places, antique shops, and just drive into the mountains. We also travel a lot and try to see our friends when we can. But in all honesty, I love nothing more than just being a home with my husband and cat, enjoying the calm.
7. If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Green, it’s a color that has always made me happy. And not because I’m Irish and my name is Kelli. Haha.
8. What does “Live Your Color” mean to you?
Oooo thats a good question, it means so much. I am a
color person, it effects me in so many ways, I can be uplifted and calmed, I’ve always said that my eyes see color before shapes, like my brain just gets jazzed by all the colors in nature. I’ve been using nature as a color palette for years, I always take photos of things that tell a good story through color. So for me, “Live Your Color” means get energized by what you see, wear color that makes you feel better, or gives you warm fuzzies. Color can be dramatic and soothing and wonderful. I also think “Live Your Color” can be much deeper, like be inspired to be as strong as color can make you feel, let it lead you, let it help you become the person who feel best being. Let it make you jump up and down because you can’t believe it exists.
Shop Kelli’s looks on Tabbisocks Crew Collection