Just as three local staple florists are shuttering their doors, Victoria’s Mobile Flower Shop is parking her truck squarely in Avalon for a new type of floral buying experience.
Residents of the North Boroughs and North Hills may need to revise their expectations before entering her California Avenue, storefront, though.
“I’m not what people are usually expecting,” said owner Victoria Smith. “They come in and look for the refrigerated cases, and premade arrangements. As you can see, we don’t have that.”
Depending on where and when you grew up, buying flowers could have a lot of different forms. City folks often bought from street vendors or corner bodegas, while smaller communities relied on the mom-and-pop flower shop to send condolences, surprise a wife or send cheer to a sick friend.
In the last two decades, the $1.5B floral industry has undergone drastic changes, with a move toward online companies like 1-800-Flowers and The Bouqs pulling consumers to less personal but on-demand ordering options. The specialized experience of entering a florist and buying a custom bouquet from a refrigerator wained from favor, leaving local stores suffering in the wake of heavy online competition.
So, who is Smith, and why did she open a flower shop?
After moving to the area several years ago for her career, she took a position with a female-owned business in Lawrenceville and fell in love with the community and culture. That love of small business and community encouraged her to fill a hole in the Steel City economy.
“We were driving home from Seven Springs, and I saw this mobile truck and said, ‘This is what Pittsburgh needs! It’s so beautiful and happy! I would love to come around the corner and see this!’, And my (then-fiancee) said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’”
So she did.
This little flower truck has been full steam ahead since she saw that image on Instagram in February of last year. She had been seriously considering a career change but hadn’t found anything that captured both her creativity and her interest. And then she found it…
That night, she made an Instagram account of her own for her would-be business, and started hunting for a truck, which she found that night, too. “It was perfect! I knew when I saw it,” she said of the miniscule sage green flower conveyor.
Since then, she’s been driving around Pittsburgh with a mission to bring beauty to the unsung hero neighborhoods, offering bouquets built by the stem to accommodate any pricepoint. “If you want a single peony, you can get that. If you want a big bouquet, you can do that too.”
The shop was originally meant to be a workspace and supply storage area, as well as parking for the truck, but she fell in love with the brightly-lit storefront and decided to offer a small retail area. But the approach is different. You’re not selecting from a menu of predesigned styles or from a case. In fact, there are no cases in the shop Smith opened in December.
“People come in and they’re pretty confused.” Instead, they find a shiplap wall with simple metal vases hanging, filled with blooms and greens Smith selected at the flower wholesaler that morning. A large work table fills the room, and she invites every customer to be her partner in building their bouquet, just the way they like it. She doesn’t have extensive catalogs and there is no FTD sticker in the window. This is a place to stay for a minute or an hour, cup of custom tea in hand.
“You’re not paying me for my skills. Instead, we’re sharing an experience. I hope, we’ll part as new friends,” Victoria Smith, Owner of Victoria’s Mobile Flower Shop.
The next logical question, of course…
And, why Avalon?
“My husband grew up in Brighton Heights and my in-laws still live there. I was just generally looking in the area and found this advertised on Craigslist. The original plan was for it to be my workshop. I had outgrown my basement and needed a place to park the truck,” she said with a laugh. “But then, it was so beautiful, and I just couldn’t imagine not letting people in this space.”
Instead, she stocked the shelves with items she loves from small businesses, mostly in Pittsburgh. She celebrates other female-owned companies by sharing what she would and does use herself. From small-batch dried flowers to soaps her grandmother makes, it’s a shop Joanna Gaines would likely swoon in.
Her location is catercorner to One White Lane, a new bridal salon. “It was a happy coincidence! We’re hoping to work together in the future,” said Smith. “She’s telling her brides about coming here for their bridal showers, and we’re working together on how to show Avalon some love.”
Smith offers events in her space, such as bridal showers allowing the bride and her party to make and take bouquets. She also offers this service, on the wedding day, allowing the bride and her maids to build unique bouquets before walking down the aisle, or for her guests to take home.
What’s next for Victoria’s Mobile Flower Shop?
“I’m just building a place I like and that I hope others will like, too. I love my new community. I want to put down roots and I want to share it with others. I believe in it, so whatever helping it succeed looks like,
that’s what I’m hoping to do.”
In the meantime, if you’re looking for fresh flowers, stock in the shop is limited on weekdays but you can order through the website for pickup or delivery anytime. The order process includes asking some simple questions about likes and dislikes, wants and want-nots. “I want to know if you love pink, if you hate roses.” She then picks flowers that morning to suit the client.
Victoria’s Mobile Flower Shop is located at 643 California Avenue, Avalon, or on their website. She is currently taking Valentine’s Day pre-orders and has a “drop a hint” link on her site if you need to nudge someone in the right direction.