Pop-up peonies: Mobile flower truck tries bringing bouquets to Pittsburgh

Amanda Parrish

Published June 11, 2019

https://www.post-gazette.com

Food trucks, say hello to flower trucks.

Victoria Miess is launching what she believes is Pittsburgh’s first mobile flower truck. The concept behind Victoria’s Mobile Flower Shop is to create a “build your own bouquet” place in which people will be able to pull together a few roses here, a few daisies there and so on for the look they want.

Since she has a truck, Ms. Miess can pull up in front of, say, a restaurant or a coffee shop and open up the doors for customers to browse the 14 varieties she sources from local wholesalers and farms.

“The idea is to just be able to stumble upon something really special doing something you would be doing every day anyway,” she said.

Launching a business from a truck is on-trend, as anyone who has bought pierogies or tacos from one of Pittsburgh’s growing fleet of food trucks knows. Many see it as a smart way to try a new concept without committing to a long-term lease for a store or locking a startup into one location.

Ms. Miess got the idea of a mobile flower shop after she saw a picture on Instagram of a pop-up flower bus in Tampa. Her fiance, Josh Smith, encouraged her to pursue the idea.

Ms. Miess had worked as a preschool teacher before getting into retail.

Because she thought no business would want her to park a big truck in front of its store, the couple bought a mini truck — a farming utility vehicle — off Craigslist. The two kept their full-time jobs, but picked up side jobs such as delivering for Postmates and working as babysitters to fund the business without using credit.

Victoria’s Mobile Flower Shop parked for the first time about a week ago at the Self-Love Sunday event in Lawrenceville. Ms. Miess said the business made about $515 in gross sales with a profit of about $300.

She estimated 50 customers came, nearly selling out 14 buckets of flowers, with only one mixed bucket left. 

The first day’s inventory came from BW Wholesale Florist based in the Strip District and Cherry Valley Organics in Burgettstown. Ms. Miess hopes to feature a different farm at every stop as the summer progresses. 

BW Wholesale’s focus is on providing fresh flowers and plants, but the other side of the business, BW Keystone Floral Supply, provides permanent botanicals, dried plants and supplies. Cherry Valley offers more than 300 varieties of flowers, while also producing organic produce and herbs.

Ms. Miess relies on the farms and wholesalers to tell her what is in season and what flowers look best that week. “But I also like the weird stuff,” she said. ”We will always have something kind of unique. Something a little bit funky.”

At their first pop, they featured pincushion proteas that Ms. Miess described as looking like a dragon egg.

Prices can run anywhere from a 50-cent piece of greenery to $6 peonies. The average bouquet can cost from $9 to $15, she said.

An industry changes

According to a June research report from IBISWorld, there has been a decline in the florist industry over the past five years in the U.S. Revenues decreased by 1.2% while the number of employees dropped 1.6%. The number of businesses fell 2.3%.

Jennifer Sparks, vice president of marketing for the Society of American Florists, said a surge of new openings in the 1980s and ’90s was followed by a drop that reflects shops going out of business and consolidation.

“Where two to three decades ago a florist business may have operated three to seven brick-and-mortar locations, that same florist may now operate one to three locations,” she said. “The internet and efficiencies in operations — florists operate leaner and smarter while serving the same amount of customers.”

Bob Freese from BW Wholesale said more people are getting involved in the industry. “Years ago, there were just flower shops, but now there are grocery stores and everyone wants to get into the business just like the flower truck,” he said.

Meanwhile, FTD, a floral delivery service, retailer and wholesaler, filed for bankruptcy last week, according to a company announcement. The company struggled to keep up with the shift to online services and started to face competition from companies able to directly deliver orders to customers with no fee.

Testing it out

Ms. Miess sees a shift in consumer taste around florals. She sees less interest in the old-fashioned Dutch-inspired centerpieces and decorative flowers. “I think everyone that is out there right now, they all have this very unique, very modern way of doing things,” she said.

She hopes to keep the truck out until October. Right now, the truck will be open in the evenings and on the weekends.

For the offseason, Ms. Miess might eventually offer bouquet subscriptions, in which she would deliver a bouquet weekly or bi-weekly.

She would eventually like to see the shop be a full-time business.

“I think we are going to see how it goes this season,” she said. “Then maybe by next year we will be out full time.”

Photo courtesy of Allyn Lewis


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