Everything and nothing is mysterious about the latest San Francisco Florist & Gifts, which is exactly how owner David Davari planned it. When he decided to open a second location that would cater to corporate clients in the city’s financial district, he wanted s tore design that could subtly change at a moment’s notice, so the shop would always appear fresh. He also knew he’d need to come up with an innovative and straightforward pricing structure that he business world could embrace.
The retail space is high on drama. Two outside walls are comprised of floor-to-ceiling glass, exposing the shop’s inner workings, including two designers who work in view of the public on movable carts. The 17-by-20-foot cooler was designed to look like a free-standing pavilion or greenhouse. Natural materials, such as slate and redwood, were used because they visually connect to the outdoors. “The look of the store by itself is so interesting,” Davari says. “It grabs people.”
As does the menu of flowers and prices. With price list in hand, walk-in customers can wander around the store, choosing the flowers and vase they like before handing them over to a designer. The cost is based on materials, not the designer’s time. Clients have taken to the concept, because it’s easier to understand why arrangements cost what they do, Davari says. The designers? That’s another matter.
“The only challenge I’ve had is getting my designers to have an understanding of what the corporate needs are and what that targeted market really likes to see,” Davari says. “Because designers did a nice design, they feel it should be expensive. But here, everything is on a formula."
It’s a formula the business world seems to welcome. In the two weeks following its February 12 opening, San Francisco Florist & Gifts was adding corporate clients at a rate of one a day. “Corporations want to know when they deal with a place, that everything is accounted for,” Davari says, "and that the money is well spent.”
Seeing a Need
Davari is a savvy businessman who has run the 15-year-old original San Francisco Florist & Gifts, a 1,200-square-foot shop across town, for the past five years. To call attention to that shop located inside a high-rise, he painted the walls and the cooler orange, red, and purple “to make sure nobody would miss it as they walk by,” Davari explains. The eye-popping color scheme does the job, he adds.
He also owns a café/bakery called Focaccia that’s located smack in the center of the financial district. In his six years of catering, he noticed that the area needed a local florist, and he moved to fill that niche with style.
“David wanted something very different,” says Keith W. Turner, and architect with Huntsman Architectural Group who designed the 3,000-square-foot shop. “He wanted something that had a highly designed quality about it that also complemented the natural qualities of flowers and plants. That’s where it all started.”
Raw construction materials, such as concrete floors and counter tops, were left exposed to give the space a strong, high-end industrial feel. A 28-by-15-foot wall of slate is artistically lighted, and cement “pods” set on wheels serve as display cases. Redwood slats are used as a screen and a decorative element, almost as a metaphor for a fence or pergola, Turner
Keeping it simple also served another purpose. Since Davari was serving as his own general contractor, he needed to keep the material and labor costs down to meet his limited budget, Turner says. To accomplish that, he wanted a design that could be built from readily available materials and easily assembled in the space.
Rather than demolishing the existing ceiling, which was light on style and heavy on air conditioning units and lighting fixtures, they disguised it. The ceiling was painted dark, then canopies were suspended from it to create different zones within the store. A translucent plastic, originally designed for greenhouses and skylights, was used to diffuse light.
The plastic “is versatile, and we wanted to use that to convey that greenhouse-light feel for the cool room,” Turner says. “From there, it made sense to use it elsewhere. We use it for screening material and as a backdrop, so that light comes in from behind.”
The big space and movable carts enable the shop to emphasize its creative side. “We don’t want people to come in and see the same things every day,” Davari says. “Everything will always be moved around. It gives the space a look of creativity and provides change so that people know we are diversified and can do any kind of design.”
Thinking Corporate Thoughts
The shop also is fully computerized to accommodate its corporate clientele, which already includes many law firms and doctors – “especially plastic surgeons,” Davari says. For instance, if a business has a standard arrangement that the owners like to place in the foyer, a picture of it can be stored in its computer file along with detailed information on the company’s budget and contact and billing information.
Even though the new location opened with 47 corporate accounts brought over from its sister store, new corporate business has been brisk despite the absence of signage and advertising. Davari attributes it to the attention the shop’s high-style design has been getting, and the shop’s ability to give customers what they want.
That means making flower arrangements that are as intriguing as the shop’s design, “from traditional to Victorian, high style to our own style,” Davari says. In the future, he’d like to bring in more exotic flowers, mainly tropicals, that will be used, “in way you don’t see everywhere,” he adds.
Maintaining the shop’s reputation of uniqueness in a city district known for its style and serious business suites is Davari’s game plan. “This place caters to the corporate market,” he says. “We can’t treat it like a mom-and-pop flower shop.”