If people can buy barbecue and tacos from a truck, why not flowers? And if consumers can get behind the idea of buying locally grown fruits and vegetables, why not create a movement of buying local flowers, too?
Those ideas are behind Roadside Blooms, a mobile flower shop bringing a new option for locally grown flowers to the Charleston market. Owned by James Island husband-and-wife team Toni Reale and Adam MacConnell, Roadside Blooms debuted at the Earth Day Festival in North Charleston.
Reale worried she’d be giving away flowers at the end of the festival; instead, she sold out 30 minutes before the event ended.
“I couldn’t make the bouquets fast enough,” she says. “It energized me that this will work.”
The concept for Roadside Blooms is an offshoot of Reale’s other business, Blue Planet Green Events, which she runs with business partner Lori DeNicola.
Blue Planet Green Events was born from Reale’s volunteer work with the Lowcountry Environmental Education Program. While serving on LEEP’s event planning committee, she realized the events could be more environmentally friendly.
A lifelong environmentalist with a degree in geology, Reale enjoyed the challenge of planning a LEEP fundraiser for 400 people that generated just one box of trash. She took the same approach to her own wedding four years ago at James Island County Park. And then friends started asking for help with their events.
So the idea blossomed into a business of green event planning. With the bulk of her business in weddings, Reale took a hard look at that industry and the amount of waste it generates. In fact, the floral arrangements are probably the least green aspect of all, she says.
More than 60 percent of the flowers in the United States are imported from other continents and countries, including South America, South Africa and parts of Europe, Reale says. Not only is there the issue of transporting these flowers to the United States, she questions the use of pesticides and the social impact of people picking flowers in harsh work environments.
Reale started incorporating local flowers into her event planning, allowing brides the option to be as green as possible with their wedding.
She gets flowers from Yuri Hana Flower Farm in Conway and this month will start sourcing flowers from Thackeray Farms on Wadmalaw Island.
Ellis Grossman, a partner in Thackeray Farms, appreciates Reale’s steadfast commitment to local flowers.
When supermarkets started selling flowers, it became tough for American farmers to compete, so he’s excited about the Roadside Blooms concept.
“I think it’s a really good idea,” he says. “Flowers are one of our big sellers at the farmers market.”
Even though Reale had been using locally grown flowers in her event planning business from Day One, the idea of a mobile flower business didn’t come up until about a year ago. Reale saw an article in a magazine about a woman in California selling single stems from a truck.
“I thought that was such a brilliant idea,” Reale says.
But she wanted to take it a step further and sell flowers grown in South Carolina.
To launch Roadside Blooms, Reale drained her retirement account and took out a loan for a 1971 British Bedford Van, a former ice-cream truck that her husband found locally online. The truck, affectionately dubbed Ramblin’ Rosie, gets 30 mpg, so it’s economical and is in line with Reale’s passion for being green.
Thanks to the food-truck movement, people are accustomed to buying from a truck, but Reale’s challenge will be education and helping people understand that, just like food, flower options are limited to what’s in season or the whims of the weather.
It’s about changing consumer behavior, Reale says. “It’s about making better choices just like you would for food.”
Reale will offer a “farm fresh arrangement of the day” available in reusable or recycled containers, such as mason jars and wine bottles.
Customers also can purchase succulent boxes, which MacConnell makes from reclaimed wood, along with herbs and live plants. Reale will also offer online ordering and delivery to Charleston County. Prices, too, are comparable to grocery stores with bouquets starting at $12 and online orders starting at $35.
Reale may not have carnations, but she guarantees a bouquet will be great.
“Just know that it will be beautiful, it will be local and you will love it,” she says.