Bell and Trunk — An Update

To say that Bell and Trunk has changed a lot over the years would be an understatement.  When I first bought the shop nearly ten years ago, it was a sweet little whole in the wall that sold flowers and baby clothes.  We catered mostly to locals whose enduring die-hard support helped many struggling small businesses like mine through the 2008 recession. Bell and Trunk sold a lot of hand-tied bouquets and we would do the occasional wedding and small event here and there. I would sell my grandma’s hand-knitted sweaters and blankets at prices she found to be astonishing back in rural Minnesota. The competitors who once had a flower shop across the street non-affectionally referred to us as the “bucket florist”.  I would hire the occasional freelancer when I needed a break or an extra set of hands, but mostly did everything myself: the floral design, shopping, bookkeeping, marketing, sidewalk sweeping, customer service, and even deliveries.  In some of these areas I thrived, like working with brides and blooms, while in other areas I definitely floundered, like organizing receipts and remembering to take out the trash. I supplemented my income with a regular bar-tending gig while raising my daughter as a single mom.  It wasn’t easy keeping track of all the moving parts of a small business while promoting the benefits of a perishable “luxury” product in this ever-changing, tech-savvy culture.

However, Bell and Trunk doggedly grew throughout the years, in large part due to the challenges we have faced. We became efficient, played up our strengths, and valued our clients above all else.   When the latest big flower companies moved in down the street—Farm Girl in Potrero Hill and BloomThat in the Dogpatch, it was discouraging at first to think we had to compete with companies that can afford to buy in bulk just like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods do.  Small, established brick and mortar shops like mine became overshadowed by their latest technology and vast internet presence.  These places found a void in the flower business by producing affordable, consistent flowers that are grown locally and delivered on demand with the click of a few buttons. This forced my little flower shop, even with the loyalest of followers, to define and refine what we do best: which is work closely with clients to understand who they are, what their style needs are, and to create customized flowers that reflect their individual uniqueness.  This required something that initially led Bell and Trunk to win my heart in the first place—human interaction and the ability to build personal relationships in order to create a truly unique work of art.

While we’ve kept our neighborhood supporters happy by upgrading our flower shop into a stylish botanical boutique and expanding our store hours, we’ve also elevated the weddings and events side of the business with over a hundred bookings every year and counting.  From Saratoga to Calistoga, Carmel Valley to Napa Valley, San Francisco to San Anselmo, our little team travels far and wide to create a magical experience for our clients.  We’ve done several fashion shows with Cocktails and Couture at West Valley Fair in San Jose, we’ve worked with NCLR, Ted Talk, Google, Manifold and other big companies on special events.  Then there are the weddings—the lavish, classically beautiful black-tie weddings; the wildly bold bohemian weddings; many, many gay weddings (including mine!); weddings in every flavor and color you can imagine.  We are never stuck on one particular style—our portfolio is as diverse as our clients, a clientele that continues to challenge us to push the aesthetic envelope.

While it’s easy for us to say our passion is weddings and events, we also cherish our regular corporate and residential accounts.  These clients are often the most challenging and rewarding since we are tasked to regularly deliver something fresh and interesting every week (or month depending on the account) while staying true to their unique aesthetic which we have carefully come to understand.  With regular deliveries to residences in Pacific Heights, Portola Valley, San Jose and beyond, these are the clients who learn to trust us to bring beauty into their homes on a regular basis.  We experience similar relationships with our our regular corporate clients too, like Tatcha, Square, and The Archery.  They worked hard to establish their own unique branding and we understand that the flowers are a direct reflection of the image they've so carefully cultivated.

Lead Designer, Caitlin McCourt.

Lead Designer, Caitlin McCourt.

Bell and Trunk has also changed internally.  While some mornings I continue to sweep cigarette butts off the sidewalk after unloading bundles of flowers, I leave the accounting and bookkeeping to the professionals.  The day-to-day operations of the flower shop go to my lead designer Caitlin McCourt, whose talents, tenacity and dedication not only to her craft but also to Bell and Trunk continue to inspire and amaze me.  I’ve had the good fortune of working with some of the best designers in the business over the years but it seems as though Caitlin came to Bell and Trunk with the right skillset at the right time. Our company is as beautiful, balanced, busy, and efficient as ever, and I feel inspired every day.  There is such wonderful satisfaction in planning an event for sometimes a year or more: prepping, creating, watching it all come to fruition, and seeing the happiness in our clients’ faces when they are finally surrounded by the flowers they've been dreaming about for so long. 

I have since moved out of my live/work loft just blocks from Bell and Trunk and into a house in Oakland.  The house was a general store back in the 20’s and 30’s with a great big room in the front which is now our studio and staging area.  Finally, I have enough space for a garden which now hosts a variety of rare blooms, fruit trees, flowering vines and unusual succulents—many of which we sell in the shop and use in our designs.  While I’m no longer spending the majority of my time in the shop, I’m doing all that I love—connecting with clients, working with flowers and creating beauty to bring about happiness.  While the majority of our business continues to flourish outside our little shop on the hill, I cherish my connection to the neighborhood and the surrounding family of merchants like Provender, Ruby Wine, Christopher’s Books and Hazel’s Kitchen.

Bell and Trunk is home.