Maggie Smith of Pine State Flowers

Kelly Perry - 00:00 - You are listening to the Team Flower podcast where we talk about flowers with people who've dedicated their lives to sharing them with the world. We believe that you'll work with flowers matters and we're cheering each of you on. Hi, my name's Kelly, and today we're talking with Maggie Smith of Pine State Flowers. Pine State Flowers is the only flower shop in North Carolina to exclusively sourced locally grown flowers. Being familiar with the local farming community, Maggie knew plenty of flower farmers in the area, but no space that source 100% locally grown flowers, so with only a good idea, little savings and no background in the floral industry. She opened a flower shop and started a small cutting garden on the site of the original greenhouses of the shop location. In this episode, Maggie shares her philosophy behind Pine State Flowers and gives us a glimpse into the story behind business. We're chatting about what Maggie does if she ever runs out of flowers, the shop, as well as how she determines how much she needs to order each week. 

Kelly Perry - 00:58 - Whether you're a farmer or a shop owner, you'll be both encouraged and inspired by our conversation. This podcast is brought to you by team, flower and online support community dedicated to educating, connecting, and empowering our lovers worldwide. We provide an online classes in person events and free weekly resources designed to support you in your journey with flowers. Whether you're professional florists, flower farmer, just love flowers there. Space for you here, come join the party at Maggie, welcome to the podcast. It's so great to have you here today. 

Kelly Perry - 01:32 - So you own, North Carolina's first exclusively local flower shop. So all of the things that you're sourcing our local American grown flowers. Tell us a little bit about your philosophy behind this and what inspired you? I bet we have a lot of, um, oh, we have a lot of mutual friends because of this initiative that you have with different. Do you know Kelly at Color Field Farms, 

Maggie Smith - 01:32 - Yes.

Kelly Perry - 01:57 - especially over there in your area, and I bet you're probably falling along with Debra Prinzing and all of her slow flowers. Goodness. Yeah, 

Maggie Smith - 02:05 - I do. Have her, um, I have worked with Kelly a lot, especially when I'm part of the new wholesale market that she helped us put down last year. So we work really closely with them. The Piedmont wholesale flowers. Yeah. That's awesome. Yes. So I would love to say that I had a starting philosophy when I opened the shop, but I actually didn't even know that I'm local. Flowers is such a special thing. When I started, I, I jumped into the shop. I didn't have any experience. 

Kelly Perry - 02:39 - We have it. for all of you moms that are listening, you know, this sweet little four month old like squeal. It's really sweet. We'll just roll with it. No worries. 

Maggie Smith - 02:47 - Yeah. And he's like, I love it. I love all these wires. Yeah. So I started the shop very quickly. I actually had a background in arts. I was working at a local documentary center, um, and I was just having a hard time, like finding kind of a full time job is just like really ready to start something of my own. And there is this beautiful old flower shop in Durham that was built in the 30s that came up for rent and I just left the building and they told me it used to be a flower shop and I knew a lot of flower farmers. And so the idea just pops in my head. I was like, sure. Like I can do that. Why not? Yeah, I'd never worked in a flower shop. Never. I don't think I'd ever really bought flowers before. Um. 

Kelly Perry - 03:35 - Oh. So That's interesting. It's so interesting how everybody comes from like completely different, you know, completely different backgrounds. But you really saw you saw a space that you wanted to bring life to and what better way to do that then through flowers. That's really exciting. 

Maggie Smith - 03:50 - Yeah. And it was just, it was really serendipitous. There was, it was the beginning of sort of people trying to grow flowers for market and grow flowers for florists. Um, but I guess my original thought was, well, I know people growing flowers, I will just buy and sell local flowers. And it wasn't really until I started getting into the business that I realized that actually nobody really does, that they're importing their flowers or buying them from wholesalers, um, which in a lot of ways makes more sense little easier. Um, so yeah, the philosophy was always to support local flower farmers. Um, and that's kind of the driving force behind the shop. Like anytime I'm like, I'm not really sure where we should go next. It's like, well, how can I keep buying from local farms? And that kind of keeps me on track. And then overtime or design philosophy has sort of, you know, everything is grown around that as far as like how we design, how we market our flowers. Um, it all comes from, yeah. Where are we getting everything from. 

Kelly Perry - 04:52 - Yeah. That's really cool. What kind of services do you offer and what does the shop look like? Who Does it? Who does it service? Who stops by? 

Maggie Smith - 05:03 - Yeah. So the shop is, it's kind of like running three businesses. So we do weddings and events. Um, we do daily deliveries. So if somebody lives in Durham are a lot of people from out of state and you have a loved one who lives in our area and you want to send them flowers, we do that, that's a big part of our business. And then we have the brick and mortar retail shop where people can walk in and get flowers. But we also have a lot of house plants, so with thin that we have a lot of different services and a lot of different customers. Um, some people are coming to us, um, because they know it's word of mouth. They know is we're really embedded in the local farming, local flower farming community. They notice through that. 

Maggie Smith - 05:54 - Um, and of course like with the weddings work a lot event planners and the lush organic natural style is really on the rise, which is great for us. That's what we specialize in. So we get a lot of referrals from clients like that. But yeah. And then I'm, we're really lucky to live in an area that really supports small independent businesses. And it's a big area for local agriculture. So Durham is, is a really great city for supporting local foods, so local flowers that really dovetails in a really nice way with that. 

Kelly Perry - 06:29 - Right. Absolutely. That's really cool. So about how many farms do you source from or is everything kind of centralized in the, um, the Piedmont, the farmers kind of coalition, I guess, is that how you would describe that? How would you describe what all of the farmers are doing? 

Maggie Smith - 06:47 - Well, I would say we regularly source from, I don't know, six to 10 different farms on a weekly basis and then um, and then probably 20 total past and present as far as like, like there's a farm and they do amazing tube roses. So that's really the only thing we buy from them each year and how I would say maybe about half of the farms. So we were buying from pharmacy for the wholesale market started. Um, and maybe half of the pharmacy work with regularly are part of the market. So it's both. Um, I have a schedule for some farms that bring outside of the market and then through the market I buy and they kind of centralize. 

Maggie Smith - 07:33 - They gathered from different farms and then I just buy from the market directly, so it's actually been great because I was already buying from those people and now they not only have made it easier to buy from the same people I was working with before, but it's been such a great, um, like pipeline for the farms to other florists and designers who maybe aren't buying in as large of quantities is we're buying. And so if you just want to come in and get started, it's like a great way to get started and get connected to local farms. 

Kelly Perry - 08:05 - Financial support for the production of this podcast is brought to you by team flowers, foundations for growing cut flowers online course. This class is designed to help you start your journey on solid footing. This class is perfect for beginners or those who have tried growing flowers before, but haven't been successful yet. People aren't born with a green thumb. It's something you have to cultivate in this class. You'll learn how to set up your space for seed germination and care will demonstrate planting and watering the seed can be confident you're doing it just right. You'll be guided through an entire year in the life of the cut flower grower and learn tried and true principles to take the steps from seed to bloom and beyond whether you'd like to start a career in growing specialty, cut flowers, or would just like to look at beautiful blooms in your garden. You are welcome here. If you're ready to experience the magic of growing your own flowers, you can learn more today at 

Kelly Perry - 08:59 - Yeah. Really good. Now with the types of quantities that you're using and just the amount of flowers that you need on a week to week basis, do you ever fear will run out of flowers or how do you determine how much and word and all those kinds of things for your. For your orders? 

Maggie Smith - 09:14 - Yeah. It's, it's kinda funny that you ask that because we did not have flowers last Friday. That is a really hard part of the business I find because it's very unpredictable. Um, and flowers, of course they're very perishable, right? So I have always just kind of gone on instinct and um, you know, there'll be a lot of weeks or over by just kind of have to roll with it and then you kind of get a feel for it. Um, and last week just out of the blue we did as many deliveries as we usually do for a week on Wednesday and then we did the same thing on Friday so there's no way to predict it. And we had a wedding and all of that. But I just, it, it was just this, I don't know, everybody had a birthday last Friday and so, you know, what can you do a, when it happens, I just, I just own up to it. 

Maggie Smith - 10:13 - I just put out a sign and we say, you know what, like we ran out of flowers, the local products like it happens, we'll have some fresh tomorrow and we just reached out to a farmer that we know really well and got some flowers for the next day is over. It happens. Yeah. 

Kelly Perry - 10:31 - I wonder if, I'm just curious like if different communities and have, we don't have a shop so I don't know or have any history, but I just kind of wonder if like, if shops sort of have these like weekends that are like big weekends on a regular basis, like all the, it's like this is the month where all the birthdays are, the anniversaries. I wonder if there's any kind of trends in smaller communities where, you know, 

Maggie Smith - 10:54 - yeah, there is. And it's kind of weird because you would think, I mean there's the obvious things like Mother's Day. Sure. That's the big one. Um, but then you think, okay, anniversaries, birthdays like that should be seasonal. But um, I find that like we don't really ever send flowers out in July. It's like a really weird, like gap for us. 

Kelly Perry - 11:18 - Interesting. 

Maggie Smith - 11:20 - There's a lot of like there's a lot of things like that in the winter time which you wouldn't think about for flowers. So it's, it is like kind of, um, there is kind of a weird rhythm to it, but it's not necessarily you really kind of have to be in it for a few years to get a sense of what that rhythm is. 

Kelly Perry - 11:35 - Yeah. Yeah. That's really interesting. What about in the winter time? Like do you keep the shop open through out all the seasons and maybe it's just more gift things in the winter or do you do workshops or what does it look like to, you know, the thing with having like a retail space as you're still rent every single month, like through the winter, through the summer, through the high times, through the low times. How's that for you? 

Maggie Smith - 12:00 - Um, so we started off very, very small in the beginning when I opened in 2014, I did absolutely everything. So I took the orders, arrange the order, is delivered the orders and then had the shop shop open two days a week. And I'm in the building that we're in. It's very beautiful. But it was pretty much vacant on and off for the past 25 years. So the first couple of years we also didn't have heat, um, so those years I did close down in the winter, there's just like nothing we can do about it. Sure. But we've really grown and as we've grown and been able to invest more into the brick and mortar or landlord is invested more into the actual building itself. So we have heat now. It's very wonderful. Yes. So yeah, we do a lot in the winter and then the other, I think part of this puzzle is working with the farmers as well. 

Maggie Smith - 12:58 - Um, so in the beginning there wasn't really a wholesale market for local flower farms. Like I remember having a lot of conversations with farmers. Like what would, how much would it be paying for this Zinnia, you know? And they'd be like, I don't know, this is how much they sell is 4% in Boston. Maybe you should just be a little less than that. I mean we had no idea and another several farms in the area and that's all they do pretty much is wholesale to local forest and designers and of course the market. And so it's really grown and the other part of that is that people can invest in the infrastructure to grow winter flowers. So at the moment we do supplement in the wintertime. Um, I'm pretty transparent about that and we buy everything we can locally and we have a small stream that comes through anemones, stock, paper, white and Amaryllis Bulbs, um, 

Maggie Smith - 13:53 - but we really do have to like source elsewhere and when I do really try to get from independent farms and I'd definitely keep it American grown. Um, and then I just try to invest in farms enough and I just tell everybody like a, my main gap right now is the winter time and it's more expensive for farms to grow in the winter because you need a heated greenhouse. But, um, I think like with there being such a more robust wholesale market between florists and farmers in the area right now, people are starting to invest in that. So I'm really hoping that's going to be the next part of, of our winter. 

Kelly Perry - 14:32 - I love I love that, that, that the, there are out, there are unintended consequences to think sometimes whenever you start something new that it can be really good and I think it's interesting with that wholesale market, how people have come together, it's helped a lot with probably transportation and centralization and just efficiency and all that piece of it, but it's also now provided those relationships that would allow somebody to have a more year round, consistent kind of income if they wanted to go in that direction because that reliability and that, that relationship has been built, which is really cool. 

Maggie Smith - 15:09 - Yeah. Yeah. You mean from the farmer's point of view, 

Kelly Perry - 15:14 - Yeah, yeah. That like now there's like an opportunity for them to potentially grow through a longer, um, through a longer season possibly. And I'm not a farmer and you know, you're not a farmer, so maybe that's not something that's like a good. I don't know if it's necessarily to them if they feel like it's a good thing or not, but it just seems like that more opportunity has been created as a result of this systemization and centralization, which is exciting. 

Maggie Smith - 15:39 - No, I think you're right because it's really lower the threshold for designers and other flower shops to invest in local flower farms so you don't have, so in the past few years, you know, we have the quantity of flour, I always want to make sure that the quantity of flowers, somebody is, makes it worth the farms to deliver to me. So, you know, I have to buy a lot and then if I'm buying a lot I have to like make sure I can sell them. Um, but now you know, somebody can come in and they don't need to spend a 100, 200, $600 a week on flowers. They can come in, it's been 40, but you have a lot more designers coming in and so really thinking it. Yeah, it does bring more money to the farmers, which is great. 

Kelly Perry - 16:22 - Yeah, that's awesome. 

Maggie Smith - 16:24 - The other thing we do for the winter is like just trying to keep anything that's good for any business that's seasonal but just like different, um, streams of revenues. So I think you had just mentioned quickly we do a lot of gifts and just like winter crafts and, and that kind of stuff, workshops, so I mean, it can't all be flowers right in the dead of winter as well. 

Kelly Perry - 16:44 - Sure, sure. That's really good. And I love the idea for having the different types of Amaryllis bulbs and paper white's and all those kinds of things that are just easy to take to a holiday party and that kind of stuff. This is good. And from which, um, which blossoms have you found are the most popular at the shop for you? That people just are like, oh, you know, really, really enjoying it. 

Maggie Smith - 17:08 - Yeah, I mean it's interesting for us because we sell so many flowers that people don't even think about. Um, and part of that is because, yeah, if you asked people what they wanted, they'd be like peonies because that's what they know. 

Kelly Perry - 17:08 - Yeah. Yeah. 

Maggie Smith - 17:29 - That's what they know. And it's really beautiful. 

Kelly Perry - 17:31 - Peonies have really great brand awareness, you know, 

Maggie Smith - 17:40 - they are Dahlias and people know him. Then like people come in and they're like, I either love or hate roses. Sure. But we don't, I mean, we only have peonies three weeks out of the whole year. Yeah. And we have a lot of flowers that people have never heard of. So um, you know, like this week we have a lot of irises and we have a lot of lilies, but we also have like a lot of native columbine. Um, we have some really beautiful foliage. We have, I mean snapdragons people know, but you wouldn't necessarily ask for snapdragons. So the way we sell flowers, we sell a mix of flowers so nobody knows where you're going to get and it's just a mix of everything that we have and that way we can sell these really beautiful native flowers that people are growing. But nobody's really gonna ask for. Um, so yeah, so people do request things. 

Maggie Smith - 18:35 - I would say peonies, um, and Dahlias are probably the number two requests, but they're also going to down with what we do, which is just a, it's like a surprise me mix and I think it's really great and we'll get emails sometimes it's been like, that is beautiful. Like what flowers are in this arrangement because they haven't seen them from a flower shop before. 

Kelly Perry - 18:55 - I love it that it's like introducing them to all their new friends. 

Maggie Smith - 18:59 - Yeah. Yeah. 

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Kelly Perry - 19:54 - Yeah, so how, how, how do you wear that? Like whenever somebody calls and they're like, hey, I was calling to get, you know, a dozen, a yellow roses for my mom's birthday who lives at 182, you know, Sunshine Terrace. Like how do you, how do you rephrase that expectation and help them, you know, still still make the sale but help them understand that this is just a little bit different, I guess. 

Maggie Smith - 20:23 - Yeah, I feel like there's two parts to that. And the first part is that like, you could look at it as a negative, but I always tell the people that work for this shop is like, you have to present it as a positive because at the end of the day it is a positive. So instead of presenting it as like, Oh, well your options are limited. Like you can choose the size and the face, but you don't get to choose flowers. We presented as a positive which is that we just tell people like we only source locally grown. So you know, we don't have that, but this is what we have. And there are some example photos, etc. etc. Um, and just, we tell them why. And you know, kind of why we think that's just how we do our business. And the second part of that is also just knowing that some people don't want that. And that's okay. Um, and so, you know, if they're like, oh no, we really need this dozen roses, yellow roses were like, that's awesome. Like we don't do that, but we'll recommend another forest in the area who does. 

Kelly Perry - 21:25 - Yeah, absolutely. 

Maggie Smith - 21:27 - Yeah. I think like in the beginning I tried to, well I don't know how much with the flowers because of course it was all about what we had that in the beginning I would sort of um, you know, be like, how can we give people everything that they're asking for sure. Um, and the answer is like you can't. Yeah. So we built our business and then I just try to over communicate what we do and then are the customers who want us will naturally come to us. And that's been, as this really worked out for us. 

Kelly Perry - 22:00 - I think that's such an important, like baseline belief or something that's just like comfortable understanding that like every product is not for every person. And that is good, like that's okay. Yeah. And um, there are also all kinds of products for all kinds of people, like there's so many different ways to have a life with flowers and so many different styles and tastes. And so I just, I love that you have found that spot in that mission and I feel like too that people love to support. It might not be for everyone, like the driving reason why they buy something because at the end of the day they have this like need that needs to be met. But I think if we can meet our needs in ways that will support somebody or that there's good will involve like, that's just like icing on the cake and feel like that's something that your shop is doing so well. 

Kelly Perry - 22:58 - Um spread not only just providing amazing flowers but also spreading awareness for local businesses and farms and I'm just supporting that and helping in a very real and tangible way to keep this movement going. Um, so that it can be sustainable. I, I love that. So good. We really appreciate what you're doing. Um, if there happened to be perhaps a shop owner that's tuning in and listening, that doesn't work with local farmers yet, but that is interested in it and has been wondering like, hmm, I wonder what that would be like. Do you have any encouragement or any steps that you would recommend just in that sort of florist farmer relationship, what you feel like makes that a really positive thing for you? You could encourage somebody who's considering trying it 

Maggie Smith - 23:47 - and it's, it's definitely go for it. Um, and there's a million reasons why you're going to be, it's more environmentally friendly. You're not importing flowers with less packaging. You are supporting somebody in your local economy to help grow their business right down the road. Um, and then, and of course like we're all businesses, right? So we need to make money. Sometimes you can save, you can save money on shipping, you know, that's a great way to like a lot of that depends on the flowers you're working with and um, you know, who your wholesaler is. And I mean there are a lot of challenges. Like, I mean, I've ordered California, grown in greenhouse grown flowers before when we supplement and the nice thing about them is that they're very uniform and large in size and that is very easy to work with. Um, with field grown flowers, which is what we work with. 

Maggie Smith - 24:44 - We don't have really any greenhouses nearby. Um, there was like a lot of inconsistency in size, but that's sort of what I find to be beautiful about it. Like they're very natural so it can be, I think kind of scary if you're very used to like having a recipe and starting with that recipe in ordering and um, you know, just having a certainty that like I have the quantity for the orders, it can be kind of scary to sort of venture out from that. But I think it's definitely worth it. The flowers are beautiful, they're fresh, they're organic, they don't have chemicals. And the other part is that you can create a partnership with somebody who can grow flowers for you and you can have something that really makes you stand out. Um, so if you like invest in a, in a flower farm and it doesn't have to be overnight, I think you could find somebody that, you know, you're like, maybe I'll replace all of my snapdragons with local snapdragons, you know, whatever's easy to kind of grow in your area. 

Maggie Smith - 25:42 - I'm going to start from there. and so we invested a lot in farms when we first started and now we're at the point where, you know, kind of look at what I buy through the year and be like, I really could have used more ridiculous or I could not get my hands on enough white flowers in august. And so farmers, they're trying to make their businesses work and so we work with somebody to fill in those gaps. And so I find that personal part of that relationship to be really appealing and really gratifying, but also as a business it makes sense too. 

Kelly Perry - 26:19 - Yeah. Yeah. And just one, one order at a time. Yeah. How can kind of get started in that role? well, thank you so much for hopping on and chatting with us today. Um, it's been great to talk with you and we'll make sure that there's a link to your Instagram and your website and everything in the show notes on the team flower blogs, people can connect with you. And um, before we sign off today, if there's anything else you'd like to share or just mentioned, please go ahead and do that now or you can just say I'm good. Whatever, whatever. 

Maggie Smith - 26:53 - No, I think we covered it. Yeah, I mean, thanks so much and for having me on, but I also just really appreciate what you guys do. Um, and I think like in educating people, getting started and also people who are, um, we're out there. I really love like how free you guys are with information. Um, I find it really refreshing and it's been helpful for me like having a business and so I know it's helpful for people starting out and yeah. So I'm really glad to be part of part of the community. 

Kelly Perry - 27:27 - Yeah, absolutely. Well, all of you who are listening, and Maggie thank you for the work that you do with flowers. It's really important and I'm just an opportunity to be able to spread life and joy and all kinds of those things that lasts long after the flowers are gone. Thanks so much for listening and we'll see you next time on the team flower podcast. If you enjoyed today's episode of the team flower podcast, would you help us by leaving a rating and review the more ratings and reviews, the easier it is for other flower levers to find the podcast. Thanks for being a part of Team Flower in helping us build this dream together. We're so grateful.

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