A new shop grows on Eldridge Street for florist Denise Porcaro
“Flower crowns are so caliente right now,” reads the flowergirlnyc Instagram caption below a shot of three fresh-faced 20-somethings, their crowns bursting with hot pink roses and spiky green dahlias. They’re at the Cinco de Mayo flower crown workshop at the Soho House, led by Denise Porcaro, owner of the Lower East Side shop Flower Girl. The crowns look straight from a fairy tale and make you want to frolic on the spot.
You might expect Porcaro herself to be as whimsical and moony as these crowns, or as her shop—all white brick and an air of freesia, it’s a bona fide sanctuary in the heart of the downtown bustle. You might imagine her in amongst the tousled bunches of French tulips, papery peonies, frilly Lisianthus—“lizzies for short”—and fresh-picked lavender, languidly arranging buds and exuding an ethereal calm. But Porcaro, the most buzzed-about arranger of flowers among the downtown sect, is in fact a very busy—and business-savvy—bee.
“I’m trying to do a lot of things at once,” Porcaro says over the phone. She called from the back of a cab, amidst managing a series of classic New York errands: shoe repair shop, then laundry pick up, then tipping the cab driver. “You know what I mean?”
"Being a small business owner, you get pulled in a gazillion different directions. You wear many different hats....It’s literally always different."
Yes, we do. Porcaro’s ever-growing client list includes everyone from the Chateau Marmont to Chanel, along with downtown hotspots like The Smile and Wilfie & Nell. She also travels relentlessly, teaches classes and creates custom work for private events, as well as “usually pretty wealthy” personal homes. “Being a small business owner, you get pulled in a gazillion different directions,” she said. “You wear many different hats. Do we have an event? Are we doing a wedding? Are we working on a collaboration? It’s literally always different.”
Like her aesthetic, Porcaro’s path to starting her own business veered toward the organic rather than the overly planned. She studied production design, and then meandered her way into the restaurant industry; she was part of the opening crew at The Park, cocktail waitressing and then bartending. There she became the go-to girl for their (often elaborate) floral arrangements, that she discovered her new creative outlet. Soon after she opened a pop-up flower shop at Earnest Sewn—“our aesthetics were very similar”—where she bartered space for flowers. This past fall, with enough momentum and a fast-growing following, she opened a place of her own.
“It’s a boutique-y downtown spot full of lush, abundant arrangements that reflect the changing seasons of New York—all with a little something extra,” she says of the Eldridge Street shop. This “something extra” comes in the form of her signature “heavy hitter elements” that takes each bouquet into a realm of its own. “I like to start simple,” she says. “A vase that is murphy glass or black glass—and then add something unusual. Just like how I dress or decorate. Always add one fun element—a red lip, an amazing pillow. There’s always a pop.”
The shop is full of unexpected moments: a bowl of crystals, a jar of porcupine quills, a flock of softly spinning air-plant terrariums. There is a lot of leaning—flowers bending into each other as if they were old friends, a giant slingshot-shaped piece of driftwood propped against the wall, a sheepskin on an industrial stool and a denim Flower Girl apron made by her in-house tailor draped on a vintage ladder near the door. A triage of knowledgeable “shopgirls” cut stems and make calls, and if you ask them, they’ll tour you through the flowers. There are scented geranium leaves that smell like spearmint, Brunia, yellow pom poms they call “Billy Balls,” purple “wax flowers,” Ruscus, enormous banana leaves, fanning out of a rustic tin.
"Always add one fun element—a red lip, an amazing pillow. There’s always a pop."
Porcaro’s unequivocal style, and her business chops, could be chalked up to her upbringing; she has always been both a country girl and a city girl. Her mother lived in Queens, so she would “come into the city and enjoy everything it had to offer—from clothes to food…all of it at my fingertips.” Her time at her father’s took her out to Long Island, where she had her “feet in the grass every weekend.” Eldridge Street is the meeting place for these two milieus, which cross-pollinate to create a truly inspired space.
In the final moments of our conversation, Porcaro muses again on her life as a small business owner. “You’re constantly thinking about it,” she says. “When it’s yours, you can never stop. But then again, it’s a flower business. I’m not saving lives. I try to keep it in perspective. I know how blessed I am…I just think it’s really important to bring flowers home.”
Flower Girl, 245 Eldridge Street, 212-777-0050