Owner of floral shop says mix of businesses that specialize in high-quality products attracted her to city
After 11 years operating her custom floral business out of a studio in Glendale, Vicki Kunz decided to make a change.
That change culminated with the July 26 opening of her downtown Port Washington shop, La Tulipe.
A grand opening celebration at the shop — the former Brown’s Floral at 115 N. Franklin St. — will be held Thursday, Aug. 21.
This is the right time to come to Port, Kunz said.
“There are wonderful things happening here,” she said. “You’ve got high-quality meats, high-quality chocolates, high-quality clothes and high-quality teas. It’s all artisanal and unique. That’s part of the charm of Port Washington and what drew us here.
“People see the value of quality products, and I think that fits into where downtown is headed with providers of quality products and services.”
Port Washington is also a convenient location for her past clients, said Kunz, who hopes they will discover all that the city has to offer when they visit her shop.
“I would encourage them to make a day of it, to have lunch and do some shopping,” she said. “It’s worth the drive.”
Kunz, who lives in Glendale, said she plans to become involved in the community.
“We are very interested in not just existing here but working with people here,” she said.
Kunz has made a name for herself by providing floral arrangements for weddings, galas and receptions.
This is her first retail venture, an upscale, European-style flower shop that also offers a variety of home accessories, including triple-milled French soaps and lotions, paper products such as gift wrap, journals and cards, jewelry and pillows that are emblazoned with Port Washington’s ZIP code or longitude and latitude. The pillows can also be custom ordered with names and dates.
“We offer things to spoil yourself or spoil a friend,” Kunz said.
Kunz defined the European style she provides as “full and lush with open flowers, a full garden look with lots of color.”
There will always be fresh bundles of flower available, she said, making it easy for someone to come in and pick up an arrangement.
While her products may be high end, that doesn’t mean only people with a high budget can be served by the store. Kunz said.
She’s starting a new line called “La T Da,” which will offer the same quality of design and floral product in package deals that are less expensive.
“There are very nice, high-quality things we can do at a lower price point,” she said. “It’s taste on a budget.”
In addition to flowers and bouquets at a variety of prices, the shop will offer custom arrangements with permanent botanicals, in the customer’s owner vases or in containers from the shop, as well as wreaths.
Kunz said she also plans to offer monthly classes on such topics as basic flower arranging, wreath-making, tablescapes and mantlescapes.
One thing she won’t offer is wire service arrangements, Kunz said.
“We prefer to offer something unique that isn’t available everywhere,” she said. “We’re able to give people a better product with more flowers without having to pay the related (wire service) fee.”
La Tulipe will deliver flowers for funerals, but otherwise limits local deliveries to orders of $75 or more. It’s an economic issue, Kunz said, adding people have been accepting of that policy.
Sharing the storefront with La Tulipe is Golden Chic Events and Consulting. Kunz said the two businesses work together on some events, but it’s not an exclusive relationship. La Tulipe works with other event planners as well, and Golden Chic uses other floral contractors for some events.
The flower business is a second career for Kunz, who started out working in client services and marketing for an advertising agency.
“I just needed a release from advertising and I turned to flowers,” Kunz said.
It’s a business that makes use of her business skills and her background as an art student, she said.
“I took all my best talents and put them together,” Kunz said. “It’s all about relationships. Knowing how to work with people is key. Understanding color and texture and composition is key.
“I just went with my gut and got creative, and everything fell into place.”
A friend of a friend who was starting a wedding business in Chicago asked if she would be interested in working together, and she built her business from that, handling weddings and parties at well-known clubs and hotels there.
Kunz later branched into events in the Milwaukee area and, as business got busier, began looking to expand.
“While I was searching for the right location, I stumbled on this,” Kunz said, gesturing around her shop. “It just felt completely right.”
About that same time, she said, a friend living in London sent her a photo of a flower shop there.
“When I saw that facade, alarm bells went off. I thought, ‘I’ve got to build this.’”
She did, recreating the distinctive black facade with copper accents at the storefront.
She plans to have flowering potted plants outside to offer a garden-like look and bistro tables and seats where people can linger and take in the scent of the flowers as well as the scenery of downtown Port — just as can be found throughout Europe.
And in a nod to the building’s past, Kunz is refurbishing an old counter found in the basement that dates back to the days when a drugstore was located there.
“It’s been fun having people come in and tell stories about those days,” Kunz said.
Image information: BUNDLES OF COLORFUL, lush flowers can be found at La Tulipe, an upscale floral shop in downtown Port Washington that opened July 26. Owner Vicki Kunz held a few of the flowers offered at the shop during the city’s recent Maxwell Street Day event. Photo by Sam Arendt