The Full Look — Christine Hoffman
Following is the full interview we did with Christine Hoffman of Foxglove Market & Studio in St. Paul, MN. Part of it ran in our monthly email, redshoes news, which is sent to subscribers on the 26th of each month. To join the mailing list, enter your email address in the field near the bottom of each page of our website.
We met and took a shine to Christine when she began selling our State Icons in her adorable shop on Grand Ave. When we found out that she's a champion for local flowers, we wanted to know more. See why she thinks they're important, and why you should, too.
Hey Christine! Tell us about you.
I opened just shy of a year ago, on July 9, 2013. Foxglove is an inspired mix of flower shop, modern mercantile, Midwest salvage, and working studio. That mix includes new and vintage home goods and furniture, lots of paper goods, and fun things for creating/entertaining. I also source locally grown, chemical-free flowers. I was a freelance interior and events designer for years, and I like to say that [Foxglove] is a retail concept of all those years of experience, products, and design.
Why did you choose to open a store?
Honestly, I had absolutely no plans to open a store. My friend and colleague, Laurie Crowell, who owns the Golden Fig, called me and said, “The space next to me is going to be available, and I think you should open a cool shop there.” My immediate reaction was absolutely no, no thank you, nope, not me. It only took a couple of hours to change my mind and come up with a rough vision for the store. When my husband came home from work, I shared the idea and he thought it sounded great. Six months later, I opened Foxglove.
Did you always plan on flowers be part of Foxglove?
That first day of brainstorming definitely included flowers in the mix. It just seemed like a logical fit with the whole store vision, and it had been in the back of my head for years that I wanted to work with seasonal, local flowers. I didn’t want to be, and still don’t label myself as, a florist, but I wanted to have that visual mix and a strong environmental/social piece to my business, instead of doing “just retail.” What could be dreamier than working with flowers, and I love the fact that I can support local flower farmers.
Tell us why you're striving to keep your flowers local.
More than 80% of the flowers sold at grocery stores, florist shops, and online are actually grown thousands of miles away, most likely in Colombia, Ecuador, Thailand, or Kenya. In fact, Colombia alone accounts for more than 60% of the flowers imported into the U.S. every day. Flower workers in Colombia are mostly women who are not paid enough to cover their family’s basic needs. The hours are long, the work is intense, and flower workers are exposed to high levels of toxic pesticides and fungicides, which leads to more health issues for the workers. In addition to the use of chemicals during the growing process, U.S. customs has strict requirements regarding insects in flower shipments, so imported flowers may be heavily treated with an insecticide before being packed up and placed on a plane bound for the States. This treatment leaves a nasty chemical residue on the flowers that is unquestionably unhealthy, and transfers first to the florists' hands, and then into your home. Yuck.
Once flowers are harvested overseas, they get bundled and boxed without water for ease of shipping. The boxed flowers are then flown thousands of miles, then they wait to go through customs inspection, and then hang out a bit longer at the airport until a trucking company comes to pick them up. They're then off-loaded at the wholesale market until purchase, and then finally loaded back on a truck to be delivered to a florist or supermarket. This is a long journey—about a week, total—with a huge carbon footprint, and the transit process also creates heaps of trash, including boxes, plastic sleeves, little plastic tubes to support fragile stems, webbed “socks” to keep large flower heads from falling apart, synthetic sponges, rubber bands, and tons of packing paper. The flowers for a single FTD bouquet could generate enough rubbish to fill a curbside trash can! That's trash that stays in our landfills for decades.
This is why Foxglove is dedicated to working with local farmers who are growing sustainably and organically. Flowers grown this way support a diverse ecological system, which benefits our local pollinators, birds, and wildlife. Blooms are cut the day before or that day, placed in buckets of water, and delivered by the growers directly to my shop. By offering these fresh, beautiful blooms, I hope to encourage consumers to live seasonally and celebrate the diverse range of products available from local flower farmers.
What farmers do you work with?
Robin and Doug at Prairie Garden Farm are lovely people who are living a life built on sustainability and responsibility to our planet as well as our world closer to home. They really walk the walk with everything they do on their farm. As organic flower farmers, they are dedicated to providing the best possible blooms to designers, florists, and retailers. They really love what they do and it shows through the amazing product they grow.
Another is Growing Lots Urban Farm. It was my original vision to encourage new flower farmers, and I talked to a number of CSAs when I was opening the shop. Growing Lots were the first brave souls to jump on board, and have committed to growing flowers for Foxglove this year.
I also held the hope that I would encourage people in the neighborhood to take a closer look at how they are growing and what they are growing in their gardens. I now have a neighbor growing chemical-free flowers for me on her hobby farm just about an hour away. So awesome!
What can Foxglove do with the flowers?
I offer lots of flowers by the stem for retail customers to purchase. Featured bouquets offer a quick grab-and-go option, or I can quickly put together a custom mix. Customers can also place advance orders for special-occasion arrangements or even small events. People are often concerned about the price, but organic does not necessarily mean more expensive…and most varieties will last so much longer than traditionally grown flowers that are shipped and stored. Customers do need to be open to availability, but know that I can create something beautiful with seasonal blooms.
What should be our biggest takeaway?
Buying anything locally minimizes environmental impact, supports other local businesses, and keeps your money going back into your community.
Do you have any events coming up at Foxglove?
Just lots of gorgeous local flowers coming in all summer. For future events, be sure to check our Facebook page.
What are five things people may not know about you?
1. My college major was Latin, which sometimes comes in handy for botanical flower names.
2. I had a dried flower arrangement for my senior prom, and the next day everyone was talking about my “dead flowers.”
3. I once kissed The Professor from Gilligan’s Island on the cheek.
4. I bake a mean pie.
5. My shop name came from a dream. I dreamt I was sitting in my backyard staring at a pile of dirt. My neighbor came to the fence and asked what I was doing. I responded, “I’m just waiting for this Foxglove to bloom.”
Tell us about some shoes you love.
My favorite shoes are my short red cowboy boots. They were my wedding boots, and still are my best dancing boots!