Live Flower Arrangement Workshops Make Business Bloom for House of Margot Blair: Austin Florist Carly Blair Adapts Business to Era of Social Isolation, With Great Success – Arts
Carly blair (Photo by David Brendan Hall)
One day, scrolling mindlessly through my Instagram feed, I came across an image from House of Margot Blair, a local florist that I am: a beautifully arranged bouquet of pink and yellow summer roses and ranunculus with a sprinkle of white poppy. This struck me all the more since I compared it to the withered arrangement of red roses, limping necks down, in a vase on my kitchen counter. Buying flowers, a daily dose of joy during the COVID-19 pandemic, hasn’t been easy.
On a whim, I reached out to Carly Blair, the store owner, to let her know how her post brought me happiness during this stressful time of social distancing. And I had an idea for her: to run a Live Zoom workshop on how to arrange flowers.
Carly sat down and listened. She made no secret of the fact that she was not sure her 10-year-old business would survive the pandemic. La Maison de Margot Blair was a company that she had created in 2009 when she was dropping out of college. Having no investors, she had juggled four $ 10 an hour jobs to get it started and at first she was just working from her kitchen table. But over time, she transformed this humble business into a very successful one with a physical location on Lake Austin Boulevard and a nationwide reputation built on high-end wedding arrangements. House of Margot Blair was known for boldly breaking the boundaries of flower arrangements by doubling – that is, putting flowers in pairs – and arranging flowers by flexing their petals. But because Carly believed that even “everyday flowers shouldn’t be ordinary,” the store also offered more affordable “Margot Minis” – perfect comfort for the coronavirus-induced gloom.
But even with her floral business flourishing (pardon the pun), Carly has seen “so much on the outside. [her] control âthat affected the future of Margot Blair’s home – like the pandemic. Nationally, half of all florists closed temporarily during the COVID-19 shutdown, and those that remained open kept only 60 to 80 percent of their business, according to the executive director of the Society of American Florists at The Columbus Expedition.
The night we spoke, Carly posted the idea for the live course to Instagram to gauge the interest of her followers. Her post explained, “You would buy your ticket, then we’ll deliver loose stems and a vase to your door, then the next day we’ll all live on Instagram together while we play with flowers and drink wine.” She asked them, “If this is something you are legitimately interested in, comment below telling me which days would work best for you and we will try to make it happen!”
For a small store with a niche customer base, Carly was “shocked” by the response. Usually his posts generated a handful of comments. He received over 50 – and most of them were from people already taking the course. Even people on the outside were asking if they could be in the virtual classroom to see if they were buying their own flowers. So Carly added this option to the plan. House of Margot Blair opened its doors to the world!
In two days, Carly finalized the plan: four workshops via Zoom; two on Friday (May 1 and 8, 7 p.m.) and two on Saturday (May 2 and 9, 2 p.m.). She decided to source flowers from the Austin Flower Company on 35th and Jefferson. âI want to support the flower industry locally,â she explained.
What seemed like a difficult return to success suddenly became a possibility. My sister even wanted to join us from Dubai. When Carly offers her class at 2 p.m., it’ll be 11 p.m. there, but that’s a time when people are still awake and doing things. Social distancing may have added local boundaries, but it removed long-distance ones.
As I signed up for the workshop myself, I asked Carly who Margot was. Carly said she liked the name ever since she found out it belonged to Anne Frank’s older sister. “When someone asked me my name, I would say Margot.” She even gave the same name to all of her dogs. To her, “Margot” seemed to hold a hidden maturity that made people take her seriously. It makes sense that Carly would want this for her fledgling business, but now her own maturity is standing out as she adapts her business to the changing times while retaining its originality and ‘artistic sentimentality’.
For more information on Carly Blair’s live tutorials, visit www.houseofmargotblair.com/margotminis.
A version of this article appeared in print on May 8, 2020 with the title: Fresh arrangement