A flower shop blooms in Northampton town center

NORTHAMPTON – To say their flower business is booming is an understatement.

From humble beginnings four years ago, Many Graces Farm & Design has grown into an operation that sells its custom flowers and floral arrangements – grown and crafted at a flower farm in Hadley – to florists, farmers’ markets and for many social events across the region.

Now the flower business has taken another leap forward, this time opening a new shop earlier this month on the first floor of Thornes Marketplace in Northampton town centre.

“The store really bridges the gap between the two sides of the business beautifully,” said Rebecca Maillet, who launched Many Graces in 2018, during a recent interview inside the new store.

Maillet’s journey into growing flowers actually began in 2015 when she started to ply the trade at Next Barn Over Farm in Hadley. There she started a small CSA with 30 members and began selling flowers to River Valley Co-op in Northampton, as well as creating flower arrangements for events in the area.

Maillet’s foray into business ownership officially took root in January 2018, when she leased two agricultural fields totaling 8 acres off Lawrence Plain Road in Hadley – and Many Graces was born. Two years later, Maillet’s business partner and love interest, Kel Komenda, joined full-time.

Many Graces opened a pop-up flower shop in Thornes last December and was successful enough that mall management provided permanent space for the business. Maillet said the couple decided to “take the plunge”, noting that the space will allow Many Graces to showcase its business offerings – both in the flowers it grows and the arrangements it designs.

“This showcase is a connection to the community,” said Komenda.

Maillet said many people are familiar with the farm-to-table movement when it comes to food, but are less familiar with the idea when it comes to flowers. In 2021, more than 250 varieties of flowers were planted at the couple’s Hadley farm, with the planting of more than 600,000 individual plants.

“And it’s all by hand,” Komenda said.

Komenda also noted that the farm grows its flowers with organic farming methods and the plants are never sprayed to control pests.

“We see the return,” Komenda said, noting the relationship between the ecosystem and insects.

One of the benefits of having a display case, Maillet explains, is that far fewer flowers will be transported outside of the sales area. The company has already stopped delivering to eastern Massachusetts, but will continue to deliver to the western part of the state.

At present, all of the dried flowers in the shop have been grown on the farm, while the fresh flowers are sourced from elsewhere. However, the shop will begin selling Many Graces fresh flowers in April and will continue to do so through the fall.

“In about six weeks, we’ll start having our own stuff,” Maillet said.

She also said the business plans to grow year-round, but needs a heated greenhouse first.

Maillet grew up in Orange and visited Thornes when she was growing up.

“It feels good to have a store here now,” Maillet said. “Thornes is a Northampton icon.”

The shop is open seven days a week during regular Thornes hours.

The company is hiring and the couple expressed hope that the store could allow more work for its employees.

“We’re looking for people who want to be there for a while,” Komenda said.

Including the couple, the company employed about ten people at its seasonal peak.

The shop also decided to organize a fundraiser for the Trans Asylum Seeker Support Network, a self-help organization that helps transgender and gay asylum seekers cross the border and rebuild their lives in the United States. Those who purchase flowers can also donate flowers to the Trans Asylum Support Network, with half of the donation going to flowers for the organization and the other half going to the organization as a monetary donation.

The couple noted how far the company has come, with Komenda pointing out that Maillet comes from a working-class background.

“I started this business with negative dollars,” Maillet said. “I built it from scratch.”

In 2018, the business had no refrigerator while in 2019 it operated from two shipping containers.

Komenda encourages people to come to the farm and check out its operations, both to see the work being done there and to learn how they can grow their own flowers. Maillet hopes the store will also become a floral resource for customers.

“We love talking to people, we love connecting,” Maillet said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at [email protected]

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