I’m thrilled to be getting to know some of Pittsburgh’s best wedding vendors a little better! Today we venture into the wonderful world of florists with Blumengarten, a family-owned business here in Pittsburgh since 1929! You can’t beat their location on Penn Avenue in the Strip District – with a parking lot!
Jim and Tim, father and son, answer some questions about their biggest challenge, what surprises people most, and more.
Blumengarten is remarkable in that it’s a longstanding family business. As each new family member and generation has entered the family business, have you learned what you’ve needed to know on the job? Or do you go to school?
Tim: In my family you started young. If you could be taught how to fold paper and close an envelope you had the privilege of helping out with billing at the end of the month. At 16 I started as the Saturday driver making the daily deliveries and helping around the store. I have grown up in the flower business and have learned from everyone around me.
Jim: Mostly on the job and from other employees. But we have sent people to design schools, seminars, conferences, webinars, and some have even worked for other florists.
Within the business, does each person have their own specific roles and strengths, or does everyone do everything?
Tim: Each person tends to fall into roles and strengths but as a small business you learn to do everything. Personally I have been a driver, a designer, an accountant, a green plant specialist, a salesman, wedding consultant, repairman and a social media liaison to name a few.
Can you give a couple examples of how wedding floral styles have changed in the past few years?
Tim: Just like fashion styles come and go. When I look at some of our old pictures it seems like all of our bouquets were a cascade style. Now the majority are a handtied style. However we are we are seeing now more people ask for a cascade look to their bouquets.
Do you find that brides and grooms tend to have a clear vision for what kind of florals they want?
Jim: Many come in with pictures they have found on the web. Then we ask questions to find out why they like the different pictures and guide them into the look they desire with the flowers that give the best value.
Do some brides and grooms have no idea what they want and need guidance and inspiration? How do you help them through what can be a very overwhelming decision?
Jim: Some do and it takes a little more time and patience. I either ask questions to see what they like, or have them look through photos and make comments about what they like and don’t like.
What are some of your favorite kinds of arrangements to create and design? Do you have a favorite season?
Jim – Anything that has a personal connection to the sender or recipient is rewarding. It is fun to create their vision around something that they bring in to use.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced creating florals for weddings? How have you overcome them?
Jim – High winds in outdoor weddings. The wind usually wins. One time I took two arrangements off columns which would have blown over during the ceremony and put them side by side in a metal milk crate. Then I took a white table cloth and wrapped it around the crate so you couldn’t see it. Instead of two arrangements, it became one large one on the ground. The columns then were moved inside behind the bridal table and the one big arrangement then became two again when they were moved inside. Once I had to completely tape down an aisle runner about 40 foot long to stone paving along all sides. Indoors we just tape the beginning and end. Archways in wind are quite difficult. I have wired them to railings, driven two foot long spikes into the ground and even asked groomsmen to hold either side until the ceremony was over.
What are some common misconceptions people have about wedding flowers?
Jim: That locally grown seasonal flowers are less expensive than flowers that are available year round from Colombia or Ecuador.
Can you describe one or two of your favorite floral creations from the past year?
Do you have a favorite venue?
Jim: No, but most Pittsburgh hotels do a great job (Renaissance, Omni William Penn, Doubletree, Marriott etc.) as well as the University Club, Priory and many others. We have many beautiful churches as well. The Calvary Methodist Church on the Northside is a lesser known treasure. Trinity Cathedral, First Presbyterian, Smithfield United, and First Lutheran are all old well-preserved and restored churches.
Tim: I am anxiously awaiting Smoke Taqueria’s move from Homestead to Lawrenceville.
What did your own wedding flowers look like?
Tim: I got married in late August 2012. My wedding flowers featured locally grown dahlias from Alpha Dahlias (Sewickley). Dahlias are one of my favorite flowers and the bouquets and centerpieces showcased their beauty.
Favorite coffee shop?
Tim: I am not much of a coffee drinker but I do enjoy that we have 10+ breweries, distilleries and wineries all within a few miles from us.
Favorite place in Pittsburgh to go for a walk?
Tim: I love taking my dog to walk at Fall Run Park (Etna/Shaler area). There is a nice short walk to a waterfall that we play in.
Thank you, Tim and Jim!
Jim Ludwig’s Blumengarten Florist
2650 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
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