Partners Alexander Posthuma (Director and Head Florist), and Melissa Whelan (Brand Stylist), opened their beautiful flower shop, A.P Bloem back in 2012, on the Prinsengracht, in the Spiegelkwartier district of Amsterdam, down the road from the Rijksmuseum, where much of the influence for the shop was drawn. Now situated on the Kerkstraat, and set amongst the antique and arts district, they designed their beautiful shop by recycling and up-cycling materials to build benches and shelving to give more of an atelier aesthetic. They are also designing their own greenhouse. We recently caught up with Melissa to chat more about their beautiful flower shop.
“Floristry for us is about delivering an emotion. The relationship between flowers and people has a long-standing value for us. It’s about forging lasting relationships with our neighbours, and being part of a collective community. Over the years our customers have become our friends, and the flowers we create for them are for occasions they hold dear to their hearts, such as birthdays, housewarmings, graduations, their first child’s arrival and even their weddings. It is special to be part of their story, and to create something tailored that reflects that moment. Our work is tailored to each client’s style, environment and occasion – every creation tells a story. No two arrangements are the same, and customers can purchase flowers per stem (as opposed to per bunch), so that every arrangement is special.”
Their customer base ranges from their local neighbours in the Spiegelkwartier and surrounding areas, as well as overseas customers, corporate clients, weddings, event planners, PR agencies, hotels, and also work for photo-shoots. “We recently completed a shoot for Vogue’s Royal Wedding issue, in honour of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s marriage – every day is different!”
The team also get to work on gardens, as well as creating custom-designed objects for bespoke events, such as handmade trees and flower-walls, and engineer framework for displaying items such as plants, pots, vases and other decorative items. “Floristry, these days, is more than simply selling bouquets!”
Alexander Posthuma and Melissa Whelan, The Shopkeepers at A.P Bloem
Who or what inspires you? A.P Bloem’s signature style draws inspiration from the beauty of nature, wild fields and the Golden Age.
Before I was a flower shopkeeper, I was…Alexander has always been a florist, ever since making daisy chains for his grandmother in a forest behind his house in Amsterdam Noord, when he was a child. Myself and the rest of the team, are quite international, hailing from locations like Australia, Japan and Sweden, and have had experience in art academies, design, photography and advertising, before becoming florists. It’s never too late to change your mind, and start something new!
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? Learning to take time out. We always want to please our clients by delivering a premium bespoke product, and often it is under high-pressure deadlines, with little time for ourselves. We believe it is important to remember to set boundaries, take a moment to breathe, relax, recharge and find inspiration from other parts of the world, if it’s by losing yourself in an exhibition, or taking a cycle through the countryside. Inspiration and calm is everywhere, just not always in your head.
What tasks do you like to delegate? Every member of our team has a key strength, such as coordination, concept design, production and styling. Each one spends the most time focusing on what’s strongest in their experience…as we always say, “one cannot be all things, to all people”!
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? Anything is possible if you believe in what you do, and be prepared to make sacrifices, in order to reap rewards.
What would be your advice for anyone wanting to open a flower shop? Take the time to learn from others. We train many interns from around the world, and the one thing that we always hear is, “we never thought floristry was this challenging”! Some don’t make it past the first day (most do!), as their ‘rosy’ bubble bursts when they realise they have to share learning the art of flower-making, with sweeping the floor, cleaning stems, washing vases, cycling deliveries throughout the city, lifting heavy things and getting dirty! There is a lot to do, but it is very rewarding for people with the right determination, creativity, humbleness and confidence (in the right measures!). Being a good florist is only a very small part of running a successful business. To make it through the first year you need to prove yourself to your audience, consider your brand image, goals, business model, and ethics and design your service levels. It’s always glamourous from the outside, but a full production behind the curtains.
Can you give us a top tip for arranging flowers? Look well at the colour, shape and form, and don’t make it too complicated. Think about who it is for, how long it will last, and the value it has to the person receiving it.
Do you have any favourite flowers? Oh that changes daily! We love exclusive and unusual flowers and we are surprised almost weekly with new finds we haven’t seen before. It is Dahlia season at the moment, and we adore the Café Au Lait variety. In March we had divine Japanese ‘Charlotte’ Ranunculus, which were absolutely breathtaking! We love ‘Pinky Winky’ Hortensias, Rosehip branches, romantic, antique Roses, exotic tropical’s to name but a few. We are spoilt for choice here in Amsterdam, the flower capital of the world!
Do you have any favourite Instagram feeds you follow? We love Azuma Makoto and his daring and willingness to push the daily perception of flowers. Blast them into space? Why not?!
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? We just love to work on cool and unique projects. Whether it’s a famous person requesting it, or a bride who wants to sit in a magical fairytale forest on her wedding night – we’re not so caught up in the worship of celebrity.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be…Probably busy with all the other facets of floristry. We are not always based in our shop, but also working from our greenhouse as well – the newest addition to our family.
What is your perfect day off? A day of disconnection with technology, and to spend time biking through a forest, or a field, in an unknown place.
What is you favourite neighbourhood coffee shop? Bocca Coffee is divine, and serendipitously, is on our street in the Kerkstraat! Sleep is over-rated (kidding!).
I wish I could…Spend more time with my family and friends, and travelling.
On the Future of Retail
“With so much being able to be bought online, we all crave human connection. We believe the emotion that flowers gives, has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so. As far as retail in general, we are seeing a trend in people that desire a unique experience and that ‘warm welcome’. Everyone wants to be part of a special story, and we hope to re-define the ritual of giving and displaying the wonder of flowers.”
Kerkstraat 151a, 1017 GG Amsterdam