Welcome to the first of an on-going series, learning sf, where I profile a Bay Area local. Today I'm featuring Rachel Pizzica, one of the three owners of Church Street Flowers. I stopped into the small storefront and was lucky enough to grab fifteen minutes with Rachel before a stream of customers flowed in and out, selecting flowers and scheduling delivery of arrangements. Here are some pictures I took in the shop and words of San Fransisco wisdom from Rachel.
|[Our learning sf guide, Rachel]|
I noticed you, Stephanie and Brianna [the other owners] are all from different areas of the country- what brought you to the Bay Area?
My husband, then boyfriend, was in culinary school here, but I’ve been in love with San Francisco since visiting with family in seventh grade. So I just happened to fall in love with a guy who was in school out here and after college moved out and got a job.
Were you already working for flower shops? What drew you to be involved with flowers?
I used to think that in college was when I decided. I liked that I would get to be artistic and work with people. But friends remember, when I was in fourth grade, I used to say I wanted to own a flower shop. When I moved to San Francisco, I interned at another flower shop and was a hostess. I’ve worked in several flower shops but this [Church Street Flowers] was my first design job.
When you became owners, Church Street Flowers had been open for a decade and you were all employees. Tell me about how that happened.
It had been a flower shop for over 20 years, we all worked for the shop and took over almost three years ago. Wow, almost three years ago!
What do you think sets Church Street Flowers apart?
This is an (almost) all-women shop and we’re all young. We’re involved in the scene in San Francisco so we have our ear to the ground. We go to the flower market ourselves at 3am and get the flowers ourselves. We’re the ones talking to the customers and designing the arrangements. Because the process is so fluid, we’re able to really create something unique for the customer.
|[Church Streets Flowers has won many awards, including Best Flower Shop multiple times from the Guardian]|
I get to work alongside my best friends, designing fresh floral arrangements that make people happy. It’s the coolest job ever- a lot of hard work, though. But really making people happy, being able to create something that is really stunning and beautiful. It’s a living medium, I’m not just painting and hoping someone likes it, I get to use nature to make something even more beautiful.
Where do you go for inspiration?
The flower market is inspiring because you get to see the seasons changing and new products coming in. I love going to Golden Gate Park and seeing all the horticulture gardens there, I try to go three or four times a year. My fellow designers here definitely inspire me.
What advice would you give other young people looking to start a business, especially in a similarly creative field?
You better be able to work really hard, nonstop. You have to be able to live and breathe it, and love doing that. I live and breathe this place but I love it. The place looks different than it did when we got it because we wanted to create a space we wanted to be in. Create a space you will love.
Have a tough skin, people can be rough in San Francisco. Have a balance between business savvy and having the creative side. Even though all we want to do is play with flowers, I sit up there doing billing for hours. And on the other side, if you are just business savvy, you may miss the pure art of it all.
Awesome, this is definitely a incredible shop. Now, onto San Francisco. Describe your perfect Bay Area day:
I would want to go out to breakfast at one of the old school dinners- I love It’s Tops- for some yummy breakfast. I love that place, you feel like you stepped into the 50s. Then I’d transport to Baker Beach because it’s 80 degrees and sunny (and I’d have a transporter to get around.) Then I’d go to Golden Produce on Church Street for an awesome picnic at Dolores Park and would go to Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack for dinner for spaghetti and meatballs. At night, I would go dancing at the Elbo Room for Soul Night.
What places would you recommend to someone visiting or just relocating to the Bay Area?
I love the Citrus Club on Haight Street, it’s one of my all time favorites. The Sushi Boat- Warakubune- on 15th and Church. The 500 Club bar.
Golden Gate Park- the de Young Museum, Academy of Sciences, and the gardens are all really great, especially if you are visiting.
I love Aardvark Books right across the street, it’s where I get all my books. The best second hand clothes store is Wasteland on Haight. Probably the coolest place I’ve seen a move in San Francisco is the Castro Theater, they raise the curtain and there was a piano player when I saw Milk.
My friend Sam works at an art gallery slash dance hall (Project 1 Art Gallery), it’s really cool because they always openings for new art but also have a dj for you to dance to.
For hella good Italian food, my favorite pizza places- Arinell’s is traditional, and you just go up to the counter and order, it’s really greasy and old school (I will go on record that there is not nearly as good pizza out here as there is back east.) For more gourmet pizza, go to Regazza, fairly new but really good.
Oh, and The Mint Karaoke Bar, I don’t know how I forgot about that place, I’m there all the time.
Thanks so much, Rachel! And I may be still learning sf, but I can second Regazza for delicious gourmet pizza. Try the potato pizza!