Local florists are reinventing the art of arrangements for a new era
Stories Darralynn Hutson
Growing up in a house filled with the scent of flowers, surrounded by the most vibrant fragrances of yellow daisies, daffodils, marigolds, and lilies, must be heavenly. Those who experience this type of upbringing as kids surely grow to become florists. But what becomes of a florist when the floral industry and its transactions have moved online? They reinvent themselves in creative ways to get blooms into people’s hands. In 1956, Bernie Allemon’s parents, Paul and Marion, opened Allemon Florist & Garden Center on East Warren in Detroit. Bernie, along with his four brothers and sisters ran the flower shop until it closed in 2004.
“Growing up, I was really into anything that came from the ground. I just dug flowers and plants. When I graduated from high school, I went to floral design school and studied how to style weddings and funerals,” Bernie says. “A lot of the floral shops have gone by the wayside because people can get their flowers online. I’ve had to adjust and change the ways I do things.”
Taking individual floral accounts that are as diverse as the variety of flowers is just one way to stay afloat as a Detroit florist. “I have clients [ranging from] restaurants like the Woodbridge Pub to grocery stores like Albertsons to luxury hair salons like Alta Moda Salon in downtown Detroit,” Bernie says. “I design all of their floral arrangements every week, and I make their establishments beautiful and smelling good.”
Creating corporate arrangements by day isn’t all that Bernie does to continue growing and nurturing Detroit with flowers. He also sells single roses in night clubs in the wee hours. Standing four foot two, Bernie uses his pint-size stature to his advantage while searching for potential buyers. “I’m a little person, a dwarf,” he says. “I’m known as the little flower guy in the night scene downtown and in St. Clair Shores. I’ve even been in a few movies. I use every advantage that I have to continue selling flowers. It’s all I know. The sweetest smell is the pink rose, a rose I call the attaché rose because it has the best fragrance. Who wouldn’t want to be around that every day?”
Bernie’s not the only inventive Detroit florist. Before permanently closing in March 2019, Pot + Box, a floral shop formerly housed in the Fisher Building, created a mobile flower truck that traveled throughout Detroit neighborhoods bringing florals right to the doors of residents in Corktown and West Village. Pot + Box owner Lisa Waud also created the flower house tour art installation in an effort to shine a light on Detroit’s broken down buildings and family homes. One Wyandotte florist involved his high school students in the flower business, operating his company, Teddy’s Flower Shop, out of Roosevelt High School on Eureka Road where more than 20 students hold part-time jobs while learning the art of floral design.
With the spring months ahead, success in the Detroit flower business depends largely on reinvention.