By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Natalie Gilliland has always loved flowers because of their beauty and the creative ways in which she can arrange them.
After she and her husband, Michael, retired from their commercial landscaping business, the goal was to open a flower shop.
Gilliland couldn’t wait.
In October 2019, she opened Poppies Flower Shop in Tempe. Nearly a year later, on September 1, Gilliland is moving it to Norterra to be closer to her Anthem home.
“I had always wanted a retail store,” she says. “I have always loved flowers and plants. I’ve played with flowers for as long as I can remember. It’s a creative outlet for me.
“I’ve wanted a boutique flower shop, something that wasn’t a traditional type of flower shop. You can pick up a dozen red roses, fill out a card and leave. But I wanted something more boutique, like in a very small town in Europe. You walk in. There are a lot of loose stems, not a lot of premade stuff. Customers can pick and choose what they want.”
Traditional flowers like daisies, roses and carnations will be aplenty, but Gilliland will specialize in novelty flowers like sweet peas, peonies, blushing bride protea, ranunculus and irises.
“You get the traditional roses with the baby’s breath,” she says. “I want to keep the usual stuff. I have gorgeous white snapdragons right now—the stuff you can’t pick up at the market. When you come into my store, I want you to have an experience.
“The girls and I are well versed in the different types of flowers and how long they’re going to last. Some flowers and plants are fussy, some like direct sunlight, some like partial sunlight. We’ll show you how to care for them and when the change out the water.”
Gilliland’s goal is to educate her customers because, then, everyone is happy. She’s especially interested in offering tips about succulents, such as water them infrequently and keep them out of the sun and heat.
Poppies will also have a small garden area so Gilliland can get the “best of all my worlds.”
“We’ll have small plants and small succulents,” she says. “Customers can pick out succulents and pot them here if they like. We can also help them pot it or they can take it home and make a mess themselves in their kitchen.
“We have all different varieties of eucalyptus and all the different greens you need to put together an arrangement. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s like you’re strolling through those shops in Europe. You can walk out holding 20 loose stems of whatever you want.”
Poppies Flower Shop arranges flowers for events, namely weddings and corporate affairs. Locally sourced gifts will be available at the store.
“It goes naturally with if you’re coming in to get flowers for a girlfriend, you can pick up a book or a candle, or things like that,” she says. “We’re featuring all local vendors, with the exception of books. I couldn’t find local vendors for books. This makes it really unique and special, versus going into a big-box store.”
Gilliland grew up in Southern California and moved to Arizona after high school. She recalls, during her childhood, hearing stories about her grandfather’s dog, affectionately named Poppy, hence the shop’s name.
“I love poppies,” she says. “I love the red poppies because I love red. But Poppy was my grandfather’s dog’s name. He died when I was young, so I don’t really remember, but my mom would always talk about my grandpa’s dog.
“When I was coming up with the name, I thought about my favorite flowers. I love sweet peas, but then I came across poppies. My grandfather was an entrepreneur. That’s all of his entrepreneurial genes in it.”
In Gilliland’s signature line of her email is “Isaiah 35:2.” A line reads, “It will burst into bloom.” Her faith is going to help her make Poppies Flower Shop a success.
“We’re Christian,” she says. “Whenever God has a plan for you, you just roll with it. That’s how the flower shop came about. I can’t stop. You just have to roll with it.
“Owning a business is stressful, especially when COVID hit. The event market died. The blessing in all of that was it allowed us to focus our time on the retail side and opening this store.”
Poppies Flower Shop, The Shops at Norterra, 2450 W. Happy Valley Road, Suite 1147, Phoenix, 480.649.7100, poppiesflowershop.com.