In bloom: New shop, Forest Flowers, opens on Market Street in Northampton
By NATE PROCTER
Daily Hampshire Gazette
Marisa Filippone doesn’t have to look far to find inspiration for her new floral design shop in downtown Northampton.
In fact, Forest Flowers is inspired by — and named after — her 8-year-old son, Forest.
“It’s a good name,” Forest said. “I’m looking forward for her to get a lot of people to come.”
Forest Flowers opened at 25 Market St. a week before Thanksgiving, joining a mix of other small businesses off one of Northampton’s downtown sidestreets. Since then, the place has been full of arrangements composed of elements like toffee roses and eucalyptus leaves as well as dried flowers and grasses.
“The shop is a great place to come in and get a sense of my style,” said Filippone, referencing the muted colors and ombre tones the colder months bring to New England. “I like the idea of playing with specialty flowers that can really shine in a bouquet, but I also want to show pine branches and other stuff that we see everyday.”
Filippone, 38, draws inspiration from the purity of nature and the “life-changing” presence of her son. She looks forward to bringing Forest to do homework and hang out at the shop after school.
Forest said his favorite items in the shop would have to be the money plants or the fragrant candles and soaps.
Rooted in horticulture
Filippone’s penchant for flowers came early in her life. In high school, she gravitated toward painting and design. Along with those passions, she enjoyed creating abstract compositions rooted in the outdoors.
“I was always inspired by nature, going outside and seeing what’s happening, and then emotionally pulling that into my work,” Filippone said.
After graduating from Hartford Art School with a bachelor of fine arts in painting and a minor in graphic design, Filippone served as art director at a marketing and design agency in Springfield. She said she learned a lot while there and, although it was a great fit for her at the time, a wonderful twist changed her life plan — the birth of her son, Forest.
Filippone sought a different professional course inspired by the new soul in her life and her attraction to flowers. She wanted to learn how to grow and become more creative with flowers, and she desired to work outside. All this led Filippone to Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway, where she credits the blossoming of her knowledge in horticulture to a teacher at the farm, Lilian Jackman.
“I had this total reflection on what makes me happy and realized motherhood definitely fruits you in a natural, organic way, and reflecting on that and where I want to put my energy,” she said.
Without enough time in the day to work full time in her literal field of dreams, she began reevaluating her life “in a big picture kind of way” a little over a year ago, she said. On her birthday last year, the Easthampton resident approached Liz Karney of Market Street furniture store Sticks & Bricks, inquiring about a pop-up shop for her own independent arrangements in the showroom. That’s when Karney informed Filippone of a vacant storefront a few doors down. The following week, she signed a lease.
“So I went back (to Liz) and was like, ‘Never mind, I’m opening a store instead,’” she said.
A community garden
Steady traffic during opening week included friends, peers and customers. Much of the advertising for the shop’s opening happened through social media and asking her peers to promote it, Filippone said. Her product suppliers, neighbors on Market Street, friends and family all helped spread the word.
While the houseplants in stock are from Natick, the shop’s flowers are sourced from Providence, Rhode Island, and the organic farm Long Field Flower Farm in Oxford, depending on the bloom.
Forest Flowers specializes in wedding services covering everything from corsages to altar and aisle decor, as well as funerals, baby showers and other events. Everyday arrangements are also available.
Although Filippone is the store’s sole official employee, she acknowledges that without her suppliers and the network she created, Forest Flowers would not be in the shape that it’s in today.
Friendly neighbors, many of them women, have offered their assistance and partnerships in business. These collaborations are evident in the shop.
Megan Sward, owner of her own ceramic shop in Amherst, designed special pottery, applying a turquoise glaze she hadn’t used anywhere else. Nature-inspired jewelry in a greenery-draped display case comes from Meegan Schreiber of Silver Lane Studio Jewelry. One shelf displays fragrant soaps imported from Naples, Italy.
Local artist Jess Marsh Wissemann painted the sign on the shop’s storefront.
“It’s been a real collaborative effort,” Filippone said. “Part of my whole vision is being a part of a community, and I feel like we’re working as a really cool team.”