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a mix of the beach, dried florals and locally-grown fresh blooms

MADISON — The minute visitors walk into Folklore Flower Co. on Boston Post Road they can experience the beachy vibe.

Immediately to the left is the “Instagram corner” — a seaside setting for photos to post. There is the ocean blue surf board propped up in the corner, next to a framed poster that proclaims: “NOBODY OWNS THE BEACH.”

The framed artwork incorporates waves, lifeguard chairs and Hawaiian scenes. Plush shell pillows, in lilac, apricot, cream and beige are artfully arranged on a wicker couch.

Welcome to Folklore, an organic blend of Kate McNellis’ love of beaches and flowers.

“It’s a reflection of what I love and there are influences from places I’ve travelled and been to,” she said. “I’ve always loved the beach. I’ve surfed and I’ve been to Bali and Hawaii and going out to the Hamptons in the summer, to Montauk.”

Wander in a bit farther and the store beckons patrons to explore. There are the citrus grove and coconut and vanilla candles from the Ginger June Candle Co.; Poppy and Pout Lip Balm, advertised as one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things 2021” and tea, crackers, Bon Bon candies and a corner devoted to the newborns in your life.

McNellis searches out products that are from eco-friendly, women-owned or black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC)-owned businesses.

McNellis pointed out fabric-covered vases by Guilford artist Laura Berkowitz Gilbert. Under the name Tocco Studio, Gilbert creates hand-knit felted vases and incorporates indigo and shibori dyeing into her work.

“That to me that’s like a little sculpture, that happens to also be a vase,” McNellis said, standing next to the vessels lined up on the shelves.

“I would have that out by itself, but I also would put fresh flowers in it in the winter,” she said. “I would put dried flowers in it. I just think it’s beautiful.”

One whole wall, near the Instagram corner, is devoted to dried flowers where arrangements are curated by McNellis and her customers.

There are bunny tail and pampas grasses, banksia, palm leaves and dried ferns.

The dried plants faded colors appeal to McNellis’ aesthetic.

“I like soft, pastel (colors),” she said. “I like things that look like they’ve sat out in the sun for a couple days. That softness to the color.”

Kayla Lepre, visiting for the first time, chose a dried floral arrangement and ordered another to pick up at a later date.

“I’m all things floral,” said the Madison resident.

“I just love that everything’s unique,” she said. “It seems like it’s all small business stuff, which I really love. It has a little bit of everything for everyone.”

Fresh flowers are also available, stored in a cooler in the back of the store. The flowers arrive weekly from the Connecticut Flower Collective that works, “to bring all of the region’s best cut flowers together,” and to offer “environmentally sustainable choices to their buyers” while increasing market opportunity for their local growers, according to their online mission statement .

“I like to be able to support the local farms,” McNellis said. “As a former flower grower, I know the flowers are such high quality and they last longer. The quality is really great and it’s better for the environment.”

Local farms that participate include Lyme’s Best Buds Flower Farm, Killingworth’s Chatfield Hollow Farm and East Haddam’s Four Root Farm.

There are lots of choices when it comes to the fresh flowers.

“You can buy them by the stem, by the bunch, you can choose your own arrangement, we can make you an arrangement,” she said, standing next to the large cooler.

“Every week we have a different selection,” she said. “We will have peonies one week because that’s what’s in season. We’ll have dahlias. We’ll have flowers that reflect what’s happening locally and sustainably and that’s important for us.”

This 44-year-old boutique owner grew up in Madison and graduated from Daniel Hand High School in 1996.

Her work experience included 10 years as a fashion designer in New York City; organic farming in Vermont; vegetable and flower farming in New York’s Hudson Valley and back to Vermont to a flower farm.

“I came back to Vermont and started working on a flower farm and that’s where I really started designing, growing, playing with flowers,” she said.

Her career as a wedding and event florist began in 2016, then COVID hit.

“When the pandemic happened, all my weddings were postponed for at least a year, if not longer,” she said.

As a single mother to her 5-year-old son, Everett, McNellis decided to move back to Connecticut.

“I ended up loving being back here and I moved the business here,” she said.

With her wedding and event business put on hold she turned to creating gift boxes, “to let people send gifts and flowers to their loved ones.”

The gift baskets are themed. There is the sympathy box, complete with Cup of Sunshine tea, a candle and a condolence card.

Every gift basket includes a dried flower arrangement.

When she needed more space to for both a workshop and retail operation, her found her current location at 266 Boston Post Road.

“It’s like my little creative outlet just for myself,” she said. “Doing weddings and doing fashion design you have to think about what you’re designing for the customer — it’s not about you.”

“The store gets to be a reflection of things that I love,” she said. “Things that I curate that I hope people will love, too.”

She continues her wedding and event floral business and gift baskets out of the workshop at the rear of Folklore.

For McNellis, building a new business has been rewarding.

“Business has been great” since opening on May 14, she said.

“I had a hopeful expectation, but I didn’t have any real way to gauge what it would look like,” she said. “It’s been nice.”

“It just all became a fun thing to do,” McNellis said. “I really liked doing it.”

Folklore Flower Co., 266 Boston Post Road, Madison, 203-896-0037; folkloreflowerco.com; hello@folkloreflowerco.com; Facebook Folklore Flower Co.; Instagram folkloreflowerco

Contact Sarah Page Kyrcz at suzipage1@aol.com.


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