Buying local has taken another step in Madison.
After years of watching and helping her mother sell flowers at the Dane County and Hilldale farmers' markets, Naly Jasengnou has opened a flower shop on Madison’s North Side.
And while the full service shop at 1203 N. Sherman Ave. offers a wide range of flowers and services, two things stand out in the 2,100-square-foot store, located in the NorthGate Shopping Center.
Naly’s Floral Shop is believed to be the only Hmong-owned floral shop in the Madison area. It also sells flowers grown on seven farms in southern and central Wisconsin. Gladiolus, lilies, snapdragons, sunflowers and lisianthus filled part of the store this week, helping give the shop a market-like feel and a niche in a flush retail floral market.
“It’s very, very competitive,” said Jasengnou, 27. “We just want to be different from everybody else, and that’s being able to have these fresh flowers, grown locally, on a daily basis. We want to keep it as original as possible.”
The competition includes longtime retailers like Felly's, Choles, George's, Klein's and Buffo; a relative newcomer, Red Square Flowers; and grocery stores with their own floral departments.
But Naly’s can boast flowers grown in Dane County. The farms include her mother's eight-acre operation and one other in Cottage Grove, two near Oregon, one near Sun Prairie and another near Mauston. Jasengnou estimates she will have fresh, locally-grown flowers through the end of October with tulips and daffodils returning to the shop as early as April.
“I liked the idea right away,” said Jasengnou’s husband, Tou Lor, whom she met in high school in East Lansing, Michigan. “It’s great to be able to provide these fresh-cut flowers from (local) farmers at a very affordable cost.”
The couple, who have a 3-year-old son, Daniel, opened the shop on Aug. 1 and held a grand opening celebration Aug. 19. They’ve invested between $25,000 and $30,000 in the project that was financed through their savings and with the help of family. Their biggest expense was a 7-foot by 11-foot, $15,000 cooler that is kept at a constant 43 degrees.
Jasengnou and Lor considered locations in Cottage Grove, Fitchburg, DeForest and another nearby North Side location before choosing NorthGate, a shopping center that includes the FEED Kitchens, a DreamBikes shop, Boomerangs Resale Shop and Madison Oriental Market, which recently changed its name from Hmoob Oriental Market.
But the story of the shop begins in the 1980s when Jasengnou’s mother, Kelly Lor, fled Southeast Asia and settled in the Seattle area. That's where she learned to grow vegetables and flowers and ultimately began selling at Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market.
Kelly Lor later moved to California and, in 2000, came to Madison, where she began growing flowers in Cottage Grove. For years, Lor, 56, has been a regular at the Dane County Farmers' Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays and also has a Saturday booth at Hilldale.
Jasengnou had helped her mother when she was a child but after high school went to school to become a phlebotomist. She had an internship at a Michigan hospital but moved back to the Madison area in 2008. She had most recently been working at a call center and running her mother’s Hilldale stand but now has her own shop open seven days a week.
“If it wasn’t for my mom I wouldn’t have any interest in flowers at all,” Jasengnou said. “My mom was the root of everything. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without her.”