At WildFig Floral in Katonah, the stems are stunning

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Nichole Wilder is the owner of WildFig Floral, located at 85 Katonah Ave in Katonah. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

If you have ever stepped foot inside of WildFig Floral in Katonah and felt as though you had been transported to a flower market in Paris, then Nicole Wilder has done what she set out to do.

The Katonah resident and owner of WildFig Floral opened the charming market on Katonah Avenue in 2019, driven to pursue her passion while giving community members a place to grab unique and carefully sourced fresh flowers.

Nichole Wilder sources the flowers sold at WildFig but locally and internationally. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

At WildFig, every square inch of the space brims with luscious florals. Abundant flowers, all available by the stem, spill from buckets. Branches reach for the ceiling, drawing the eye upward. Grab-and-go bouquets nestled in glass mason jars sit just inside the door. And while the shop is always awe-inducing, the palette and design changes each week.

“Our inspiration every week is seeing what’s beautiful and fresh in the markets,” Wilder said. Wilder and her small team take particular care of the flower stock. “At the end of each day we are here for another hour and a half, cleaning flowers, changing water, and putting things away. It’s a lot of work but the experience allows people to learn about flowers as well; it’s an education when they come in.”

While WildFig appeals to all manner of customers, Wilder is focused on satisfying people who appreciate garden style and unique varieties. “What we do here is all garden style, very abundant and inspired by nature,” she said.

To source WildFig’s flowers, Wilder buys both locally and internationally. She maintains strong relationships with wholesalers in New York City and Norwalk, Connecticut. In the summer, she turns to local farms as much as possible. “If people have a cut garden and want to sell their fresh flowers to me, I’m always interested in that,” Wilder said.

Flowers receive a cut and fresh water each night before returning to the fridge. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

About twice a month Wilder buys flowers direct from Holland through the online auction site Holex. “It’s an unbelievable system,” Wilder explained. “You can shop by variety, color, length. You purchase and pick the date that you would like your flowers to be shipped and it all gets overnighted.”

On the auction, the price for flowers can fluctuate wildly, just like any other commodity. Here, prices are often driven by trends. “If everybody is doing hydrangeas for a wedding, you will absolutely see the price of hydrangeas go up,” Wilder explained.

The pandemic created a perfect storm for flower prices, as plummeting supply met skyrocketing demand. “Flowers came back like crazy during COVID. People wanted fresh flowers in their home; they wanted something bright,” Wilder said. “But the supply wasn’t there. A lot of growers had put less product in the ground, not being certain about what the future held.”

Wilder, who previously worked in the finance industry doing institutional research, acknowledges that running a flower shop is a significant amount of labor, and much of it physical. “It’s a physically demanding career. Whether it’s carrying boxes in and out of a market, breaking boxes down, dumping boxes of water, cleaning flowers and branches…as beautiful and effortless and delicate as we make everything look, there is a lot of physical work,” Wilder said.

"There is a lot of physical work," Wilder said about running a floral shop. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

Wilder has found support and encouragement from the community at large. “The community is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” she said. “The other [Katonah] merchants are so supportive, as well as the small town community. There really is a wonderful foundation already in place so that if you want to open a business in Katonah, it’s generally very well received.”

Reflecting on what it means to her to run a small local flower business, Wilder said, “you’re involved in intimate parts of people’s lives. You’re in their house. You know their kids, you know their style, what makes them happy; that’s what’s most fulfilling having a store here in town. It’s all worth it.”


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