In Spanish the word for “entrepreneur” (empresario) is also the word for “businessman,” “manager,” “showman,” and “promoter.” Those words only begin to define Juan Carlo Bermudez, the empresario of the event-and floral-design business Floresta or, as it is shown on its web site [ fLo rE sta ].
Design writers will remember when architects (MVRDV, SHoP and OMA) even magazines (Wallpaper*) had to have typographical gimmicks. [ fLo rE sta ] these days will also answer to Floresta, a company that prides itself on being a “nontraditional floral design studio specializing in all indulgent floral styles that incorporate romantic, vintage, and rustic notes.” Which means Floresta is not afraid to include a pear or a beet (is that a beet below?) in a floral arrangement.
Juan Carlo Bermudez himself answers to “Carlo.”
His background is as much marketing and advertising as it is flowers. His family in Colombia grew flowers, going back to his grandfather who grew orchids. But when he fetched up in New York he went to work for Gorilla Media (another joke name), even at one point wearing the gorilla suit. Within eight years he was a partner.
When the company was sold, he got a wad of money, but was also saddled with a non-compete clause.
He could not work for another advertising or marketing company. “What was I going to do? The only thing I know is about flowers, that’s my roots.”
So he signed up for classes with Eileen Johnson, the founder at New York Flower School. “Very expensive,” he said.
After graduating, he bartered work by his niece and nephew for their internships at the school, so they too could learn to be florists, and he himself went to work for a society florist who had contracts at the Metropolitan Museum and MoMA.
With that experience under his belt, he started Floresta, on Vernon Avenue in Long Island City. As a neighborhood florist he will fulfill walk-in orders or takes phone orders (347 642-8108) for Valentines’s Day or a funeral. He does lots of weddings.
In many ways he is a regular florist, although he is in New York City, and has benefited from his experience at Gorilla Media.
“What I learned,” he says, “is that you can believe in marketing and advertising and take that experience to a business like Floresta.” The website is charming.
Floresta is not a society florist, although it has been featured in the Knot, and Time Out New York and the New York Times. It has done big events on Long Island.
Their metier in general, however, is more off-beat, with homespun, laid-back and loose events where people have fun. And Carlo loves to sneak fruits and vegetables, odd flowers or even weeds and thistles into his flower arrangements.
The “tropical” event below took place inside a brick arcade that Floresta transformed with a few palm fronds, anthurium, orchids, Birds of Paradise and stalks of little bananas. Music and a couple of enthusiastic dancers completed the evening.
Besides his niece and nephew, who have become florists, and the professional designers from the New York Flower School that he hires, he likes to give a break to people who need a hand.
“I like to cooperate with people who don’t have opportunities, single mothers. You help people with not much luck, or education, and show them they can create something with their hands.”
He also takes in five or six high school students as interns, he said, “because they are the next generation.” Floresta has been in business for nine years, and in that time he has seen a few high school students graduate and go on to study to become florists themselves.
Carlo’s dreams go beyond his florist shop. Within a few years he sees two more shops, with expansion into trendy Williamsburg or Greenpoint. One idea is a combination wine bar and florist shop called Bouquet.
“You see, there is a bouquet to the wine, and of course a bouquet of flowers,” he says.
Of course, after a few glasses of wine, a customer might be more inclined to buy flowers. Many of Carlo’s finest flowers come not from the standard flower markets: Colombia and the Dutch flower markets. He find the best, freshest and most perfectly packaged cut flowers come from Okinawa.
“The sweet peas, when you smell them, they are super sweet and delicate,” he said.
He likes the packaging and the Japanese dedication to perfection. “They have passion for simplicity and beauty,” he said.
“The Japanese, if they are a rose grower, they only grow roses.” And so the roses from them are perfection. The cost, he notes, is steep. Perhaps best to serve a third glass of wine.
His other dream is to find 2,000 square feet of space so he can open Casa Floresta. For years he has been scouting big cities and buying old, beautiful industrial objects and antiques, things he feels would look wonderful in a loft or spacious home along with indoor plants.
Within three years, he says, he will have Floresta and two stores, Bouquet and Casa Floresta.
For an empresario, that all seems doable. – Linda Lee