The Coolest Flower Boutique in Chicago
For a few years now one of my favorite places to visit whenever I travel through Chicago is a gorgeous little flower shop called Fleur, which now sits behind a beautiful glass storefront on N. Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square. Shop owner Kelly Marie Thompson recently uprooted and transplanted the boutique to this new location after 13 years as a tiny “bucket shop” at the nexus of California Avenue and Logan Boulevard.
The first time I wandered into the original shop was something of a happy accident– I had been brunching at nearby Lula and remembered reading some rave reviews about a store called Fleur online, prior to my arrival in the neighborhood. Years later, I’m grateful that I had time to kill on that particularly sunny afternoon, and I have been loyal to Fleur ever since.
In my latest visit to Chicago, I was happy to see that Fleur had expanded to a new location– no doubt in response to the demands of its clientele, who still regard Fleur as a beloved neighborhood staple.
Recently, we sat with Fleur’s founder and owner Kelly Marie Thompson, who answered a few questions for us about the shop’s history, its amazing collection of curiosities, and why flowers are an enduring source of inspiration.
What is your earliest memory of gardening?
KMT: There really isn’t a time I can remember without flowers somehow being a part of my life. My mother filled every inch of our little Chicago bungalow with flowers. Our yard spilled over with peonies, snapdragons, apple blossoms, roses. She filled the patio with containers of annuals and we always brought bundles of blooms to neighbors and family.
Did you grow up in Chicago? What inspired you to open a shop like Fleur here?
KMT: I was born and raised on the SW side of Chicago. In college I moved to the NW side, and started to work with flowers. Chicago just seemed right. At the time I lived in the Logan Square neighborhood, which I love so much– it’s filled with beautiful homes, gorgeous boulevards, impressive gardens, and lots of diversity. There weren’t really any shops around like the one that I had in my mind, and the area’s sense of community was so strong that it was the perfect fit.
What is your background? Did you always know you wanted to be doing what you’re doing, as sort of a florist-entrepreneur?
KMT: Art always played some kind of role in my life. I typically always had a crayon or paintbrush [in my hand], ever since I was small. I studied art history in college and loved painting, printmaking, and sculpture.
Not surprisingly, a lot of my work was botanical influenced and for a moment I dreamt about becoming a botanical illustrator. When the time came that life lead me to actual floral design, everything just made a lot of sense.
Do you have a favorite flower, herb, or plant?
KMT: I’m a sucker for peonies. They were everywhere when I was growing up, and I love their fragrance, the fluffy, cloud-like petals, and how the blooms remind me of swans. And mimosa’s yellow cotton-ball puffs make me the happiest lady on earth when they’re finally in season again.
How big is the Fleur team?
KMT: During a regular week there are 8 of us, but on big weekends with multiple events we can add up to 12-15.
What inspires you, creatively?
KMT: Again, art really plays a huge role in my life in general. My husband and I love visiting art museums when we travel. I also love interior design and cooking. When I finally find a little down time I’m always reading design magazines, and the ultimate way for me to relax is cooking a giant meal for friends and family.
You have such an amazing collection of things in Fleur– You have a great eye! Where do you find your purveyors?
KMT: Well, thank you! When sourcing for our boutique I really try hard to find items that are practical and useful, but make you feel special. Personally, I love when the every day objects that I use in life make me happy. I always look for local artists and try to find as many American-made products as possible.
I’m very fortunate that designers often reach out to us as well. In regards to the flowers, I source as many locally-grown blooms as possible throughout the season (we have flowers from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan), and we buy direct from New York and Holland as well. I love my local wholesaler; they really work hard to fulfill my crazy requests!
What do you find is popular with the wedding crowd right now?
KMT: Lovely, windswept blooms with plush focal pops are really popular right now, as are incredible statement pieces. I love when the bouquets are airy and light with a bit of a trailing vine.
I always tell my clients to be open to what is in season– there are so many great textures and colors out there. When a client tells me that if I see something extra special the week of their wedding and it’s okay to include that into their bouquet, it is so exciting.
I know Fleur just moved to a new location. What are the next steps for the shop? Do you have any cool events coming up?
KMT: Yes, we moved to our current location in October 2014. It’s more than double in size, and we have a walk-in cooler, which has allowed for us to create more. We also offer design classes, and rent out the back space for artists to teach their talents, like weaving. It’s been great reconnecting with the community and meeting all of our amazing guests!