It’s midafternoon at Saville Flowers. Mark Jones stands behind the wooden table his great-grandfather used to arrange flower bouquets 80 years ago. Jones, 30, has been the owner of the flower shop for seven years.
Jones wears a flowered shirt beneath a plum-colored sweater. He’s donned a sand-colored apron, which has green pigment trails from stems he just cut. Fragments of a yellow daffodil’s petals are stuck in his cream pants.
He traverses the store, each time carrying something different: scissors, bows or buckets full of water. Jones walks to the back of the shop and picks four white roses to make a new bouquet. Some small calla lilies and yellow poppies are sprinkled on the sides to make the arrangement playful. A white orchid, dipped in a water-filled tube to keep it alive, is placed on top.
At 1714 Sherman Avenue, Saville Flowers has vitrines with hanging golden frames, green vines and potted plants. Eighty years ago, customers had to personally visit the store to buy flowers. After the pandemic, Jones developed new and creative ways to reach a wider audience. He says that they will soon be hosting workshops on IGTV and selling merchandise.
“What sets Saville Flowers apart from other flower shops is its dynamic online presence,” Jones says. The store has its own website and Instagram page, with photos taken by Sarah McIntyre, Saville’s manager and social media director. Jones says he also strives to preserve the nature of small town retail, where people can have a “boutique-like” experience and sense of community.
Alonso Cervera, a junior in Medill, says that Saville is his “go-to” place in Evanston whenever he wants to make his girlfriend, Lisa Vicini, smile. “I just say what mood I’m going for, and they’re able to capture that through flowers,” he says.
“[He's] Saville’s most loyal boyfriend-customer,” adds Vicini, a Weinberg junior.
“Saville Flowers has the best of both worlds,” Jones says. “We have people who have been coming here for 50 years, and we also have students from Northwestern, so we dance that line of pushing the envelope but serving an older generation of clients too.”
McIntyre quit her personal photography business to work full-time at Saville Flowers. She has worked at the shop for over two years.
“Everyone at the store has their side hustles,” McIntyre says. “Ashley Ingold, Saville’s retail merchandiser, is also an artist, and painted the panels that we use as backgrounds for our shoots.” McIntyre says the team is very ‘scrappy,’ and that they even use the white wall at CVS to create their local sets.
“I sometimes tell everyone at the shop, ‘Dress cute today, we’re shooting!’”
While McIntyre takes a bouquet to another table to be wrapped for delivery, Jones returns to the wooden table. He removes the leaves of a dozen purple roses that came from Ecuador and Colombia. Jones then rubs the rose stems between his hands. It’ll help the petals open faster, he says.
The shop is quiet, as all but one of the employees have left for the day. To adapt to changes in lifestyle caused by COVID-19, Jones created flexibility in Saville Flowers.
“During the pandemic, we came to the store to work, socialize and provide some joy and beauty into the world,” Jones says. “Our generation wants to find meaning, and it’s fun I get to provide that.”
Above his head, dry flowers hang from the lamps, ready to be cut and used in future dry arrangements. McIntyre tells Jones that white tulips arrived in the morning. Jones walks into the cooler room to take a look. He picks four white tulips and three pink peonies, which he arranges in a light-pink mason jar.
“It’s an arrangement for sympathy, so pale and nude colors are used,” Jones says. “Something soft, elegant and peaceful.” Once he finishes placing all the flowers, he quietly looks at his creation. “Dream” by Jain is playing in the background. McIntyre says they listen to the same music on repeat until they can't take it anymore. Usually bossa nova. Or anything classy with a funky twist, she says. The volume is low.
“There are always flowers for life’s most important moments, and it’s special to be a part of that with your clients,” Jones says.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Sarah McIntyre / @savilleflowers on Instagram.