WeNo Insider’s Guide to… Floral Hall!

Presenting Floral Hall, a longstanding West Norwood business with deep roots in the community.

Enter­ing the shop you are greeted by a cent­ral explo­sion of col­our and a subtle fra­grance of flowers; along the edges are dis­plays of seeds, bulbs, chocol­ates, candles and vases. And there’s more… for tucked around the corner on Lans­downe Hill, Flor­al Hall run a garden centre (a rel­at­ively young busi­ness at just five years old!) This does a par­tic­u­larly brisk trade in Decem­ber when local people are busy select­ing their Christ­mas trees and eagerly car­ry­ing them away.

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Owner Sally and her team have been trad­ing flowers from the high street premises for 20 years. When you view the attract­ive, wide shop front­age with plants arranged on the pave­ment, the shop does have cer­tain solid pres­ence. The busi­ness actu­ally goes back even fur­ther – an impress­ive 37 years, oper­at­ing ini­tially as a flower stall. Sally recalls the pitch. It was next to a fish wagon and fruit stall on the cobbled right of way out­side the Thur­low Arms (now Tesco Metro). The row of mar­ket stalls had oper­ated in that spot for gen­er­a­tions.

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When Sally first came to West Nor­wood, there were an amaz­ing seven flor­al out­lets. She explains, “you see, there was no inter­net or com­pet­ing super­mar­ket trade…”. Even so, that seems like a lot of flor­ists. But as our intrep­id FEAST report­er spoke to Sally, it became clear flowers are part of the fab­ric of our lives. People use them to mark sig­ni­fic­ant life events, in times of cel­eb­ra­tions: wed­dings, spe­cial birth­days and births; and the pain­ful times of loss: for funer­als. So it’s not sur­pris­ing Sally and her staff have got to know the shop reg­u­lars over the years, seen people’s kids grow up and go to uni­ver­sity etc, which explained why dur­ing the inter­view in neigh­bour­ing Sor­rento Res­taur­ant, Sally was greeted by pass­ersby say­ing hello and keen to exchange news.

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So, what is unique about Flor­al Hall? Well, Sally prides her­self on good ser­vice. You can order online and items can be delivered. Vis­it­ors to the shop notice the friendly atmo­sphere and gentle banter. Kevin, Christine and Linda have been work­ing with Sally for years and they work togeth­er with ease.

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And the high­lights of the job? Sally doesn’t hes­it­ate – the flowers. “You never cease to be amazed by their smell and beauty”. But it’s hard work, labour intens­ive. She vis­its New Cov­ent Garden Mar­ket four times a week, arriv­ing at 5am to haggle with buy­ers – a job her late hus­band Terry excelled at. She then has to load her van, drive back, unload, pre­pare and arrange stock. As she points out, it’s per­ish­able stock so it’s risky judging what you need. The team have worked all night to meet the dead­lines of Moth­ers Day and Valentines Day – bou­quets have to be pre­pared fresh. She remem­bers with a smile how the Thur­low Arms pub­lic­an would see the shop lights burn­ing after hours and bring over a tray of sand­wiches and hot tod­dies! Then there was the time when Next needed 250 buck­ets of flowers for their autumn cata­logue shoot and they scrambled to meet the brief. But there have been highs –pre­par­ing the flowers for Kate Winslett’s wed­ding when she was at the height of her career (all top secret). And, inev­it­ably, there have been lows – the time the van was stolen with all their stock just before Valentines Day and Terry had no choice but to pur­chase all the flowers again and buy a new van.

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Have there been any mem­or­able jobs? Cer­tainly! Dead flor­al arrange­ments for a film set. Also many per­son­al spe­cial­ist arrange­ments – Linda recently cre­ated a flor­al ball­room dan­cing couple that they were par­tic­u­larly proud of.

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This year is the shop’s 20th anniversary. We hope the team takes some time out for a well-deserved cel­eb­ra­tion!

Floral Hall

370 Nor­wood Road

SE27 9BQ

www.floralhalllondon.co.uk

Mon-Sat 8.30 to 6pm and Sun 8.30 to 5pm