Florist Caine of Harrogate has been creating bespoke floral arrangements for clients near and far for more than 19 years, we paid a visit to the John Street shop to learn the secret of its success.
John Street has a touch of Harry Potter about it; a Diagon Alley-type place. A narrow, cobbled street with old solid stone shops down one side and, on a good day, some bustle and noise and people.
Stepping into Caine of Harrogate is like stepping into Harry Potter’s wand shop. The florist’s is dark and small and atmospheric with painted black walls and wooden shelves crammed with gift candles in glass jars.
The co-owner Lance likes the comparison. “It is show business,” he states as the eponymous Caine gets busy on his mobile phone. “We don’t have a separate space elsewhere for work. This is an artisan’s workshop and people can come in and they can see the quality of the flowers and what we’re doing for them.”
He adds: “We’ve been in the same building since we started. We are creating something here that is absolutely different.”
And what the pair have spent nearly two decades creating is bespoke floral arrangements for weddings, birthdays, christenings, funerals, private functions and corporate events.
Their trademark is to use only white and green flowers, plants and moss. Lance explains: “White and green goes in any home, once you start mixing in colours the displays are going to clash with something. It’s the same for weddings, we can use the same products but get different outcomes.”
The pair have an obvious passion for their work. Lance, with a background in retail, brings a sense of customer service and branding while Caine, who studied horticulture and floristry, is all hands-on producing the displays. “We’re a good team, says Lance, adding: “We’ve got everything covered.”
The team work produces the results, Business is good, according to Lance, with weddings having been a big feature in 2018 as well as the private functions.
They have a loyal clientele who come back time and again. And customers are not just from Harrogate but from further afield in Yorkshire, from the North East and from London.
Lance says: “People comes from all over the country to Harrogate and when they find us and the bespoke service we offer, they always come back. “Whatever the price of what we create, £10 or £100, it’ll be beautiful. Plus, we have the black and gold branding on the bags and signage so what we’re handing over is quality they are going to love.”
The same loyalty extends to their supplier in Leeds, with whom they’ve had a business relationship since the start. This means that when it comes to the flowers and plants they need, they literally get the pick of the bunch.
The biggest change across the years has been, of course, the internet and Caine of Harrogate can have the best of both worlds. They offer gifts, floral arrangements and potted plants online and trade is good. But for Lance, it’s all about like the personal touch. “You can’t buy what we do online. Our clientele are loyal and still want to come into the shop and feel the atmosphere and see what we are doing.
“They want to pick up and feel the quality of the flowers. And when they come back, they always find something they can buy,” he says.
And Caine and Lance want it to stay that way. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” states Lance. “If we moved to larger premises, we couldn’t recreate what we do here. People like the intimacy and we and they like it when it’s busy. It creates an impression and we’re never going to change that.
He reaches for photographs of some of their work including a moss bike for when the Tour de France came to town in 2014 and a “living sofa” that included growing flowers and plants in the seats.
When they do manage to get away, they take what Lance describes as a “busman’s holiday”. He says: “It’s city breaks abroad for us and we’re always looking at what the flower sellers are doing. We just have to keep evolving through our floral arrangements so we are constantly looking for new ideas.”
He believes “they’re only as good as their last job” so the key is to keep creating something that’s unique and that’s not easy. After all, it’s not as if you can just wave a magic wand.