Based in Eugene, Ore., Market of Choice is a 10-store privately owned specialty grocery chain with locations across the state. When I stopped by the Bend, Ore., store on a recent visit, I was impressed by the floral department’s extensive “local” offerings, from monobotanical bunches and lush mixed bouquets to a display case filled with posies in glass canning jars.
I was in Bend to tour Sweet Posy Floral, a flower farm and floral design studio, and to interview owner Jennifer Ladd. She mentioned during our conversation that Bonnie Stephenson, the floral manager at Bend’s Market of Choice, allowed Sweet Posy Floral’s CSA (communitysupported agriculture) subscribers to pick up their weekly bouquets from the Market’s cooler.
What? I had to ask the question a second time. “Yes, they are fantastic, and they truly embrace us,” Ladd said. While her farm is located about 15 minutes outside of downtown Bend, a central pickup location is a valuable convenience. “It also saves having all that traffic coming down our gravel driveway,” Ladd pointed out.
Stephenson runs a full-service floral department, including providing wedding and custom design services, at Bend’s Market of Choice, which opened four years ago. (The chain is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.) The store serves a mix of local residents and tourists who come to Central Oregon for its rugged natural beauty, winter skiing and summer heat.
While it might seem counter-intuitive to let a flower farm’s CSA bouquets move through the grocery floral department with no money exchanging, the arrangement made sense to Stephenson. She proposed the plan to her manager, saying, “When Sweet Posy’s CSA customers are in the store, they also shop here. I rarely see someone come in and pick up flowers without also picking up a gallon of milk and other items. So it’s a customer service.”
“Hyper-local blooms at one market of choice floral department connect shoppers with farms in central Oregon.”
Flower farmer Jennifer Ladd of Sweet Posy Floral
The agreement began in 2016, and it didn’t take long before Stephenson began to regularly purchase Sweet Posy Floral items for her department. “Market of Choice gives department managers freedom to be creative and leeway to bring in local product,” Stephenson said. “We are creating a market for local flowers, and I think the store and the farms are providing value for each other.”
For the 2019 season, Sweet Posy Floral delivered straight bunches of crops including Zinnia, snapdragons and Dahlia; mixed bouquets; and the jar posy, which Stephenson calls the “mussie tussie.” “The jar posies are signature pieces that people love because they’re grab-and-go items,” Ladd explained.
She says having a grocery partner is a great – and consistent – retail channel, one that augments Sweet Posy Floral’s other sales channels (including the 10- week CSA program, a popular wedding floral design service and on-farm workshops). “We got into grocery because we had so many flowers, and I couldn’t let them stay in the ground,” Ladd said. “Market of Choice, and Bonnie in particular, have embraced us. She tells us, ‘You can’t over-deliver.’ She’s telling us that the community is hungry for local flowers.’”
Stephenson echoed this story. “I work for a grocery chain that is passionate about local, including local flowers,” she says. “We have found that customers will pay the extra money to bring home flowers grown by a farmer in this community. They want to keep their money in this community, and they want flowers that are fresh and that were grown 15 to 20 minutes from our front door.”
Since developing the local flower program with Sweet Posy Floral, Stephenson has added Bedhead Blooms and Windflower Farm, two other Bend area flower farms, to her vendor list. Her background working as a wedding coordinator, floral designer and retail nursery manager has influenced Stephenson’s perspective. “There are many regulars who will go no place else but Market of Choice. I listen to what the customers want, which means we sell more flowers during our ‘flower farmer’ months – March through the first frost in October or November – than we do during other times of the year.”
Market of Choice, marketofchoice.com, @marketofchoice_offcial
Sweet Posy Floral, sweetposyfloral.com, @sweetposyfloral