Flowers have been in high demand during the Covid disruptions as people have focused on home decorating and adding new indoor and outdoor plants.
For Redfern florist Merchant and Green this has created new business opportunities and surprising demand, which they have responded to online.
Part of the Redfern community since 2017, Merchant and Green is owned by Chris Saban, himself a local resident for over 20 years.
Merchant and Green is a boutique florist and also offers workshops for terrarium making, kokedama and flower arranging.
“When we first opened in 2017 we were teaching one every couple of months and it’s grown to the point where we’re currently doing around six to eight a week,” says Saban.
Seasonal classes such as ceramics, weaving and Christmas wreath making are also offered. Both private and public classes are taught to anyone from corporate groups to future hobbyists.
“The Christmas wreath workshops we’ve been doing, we’ve done almost 200 people this year, and we did some at the Botanic Gardens,” says Saban.
As the Sydney Covid-19 lockdown threatened the business, Merchant and Green were quick to adapt.
“Sydney City Council did an amazing thing for us,” says Saban.
“They gave us a grant to develop a whole range of online classes. We found packaging and all the items and quickly worked out how to use Zoom, and launched online classes.
“When Melbourne went into lockdown we were doing four or more classes a week teaching people in Melbourne, people in Regional Victoria, people in Regional New South Wales how to make things.
“A little kit would be delivered to their house, they’d jump onto Zoom with me and then classes went online.”
Merchant and Green has survived the pandemic through a combination of innovation and support from council and community, both in Redfern and a new community reached online.
“It seemed like we were going to lose everything in our business and the opposite happened,” says Saban.
“Everyone is buying flowers, decorating their houses, everyone was buying plants to set up their home offices.”
During the worst of lockdown the store was still able to remain open, with local residents lining up outside to pick flowers by pointing at the window displays.
“There is a deep sense of community,” says Saban.
“Even just knowing that people are looking out for you when you’re under so much pressure and stress is a good thing.”