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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This year is the shop’s 20th anniversary. We hope the team takes some time out for a well-deserved celebration!
370 Norwood Road
Mon-Sat 8.30 to 6pm and Sun 8.30 to 5pm