Miracle Mile Spotlight: Urban Florist
Bryan Brayton [photo above] is very much a Connecticut Yankee in the Miracle Mile. He’s an even-tempered, friendly, and contented man. He opened his florist shop on the south side of 8th Street, just a short distance from La Brea Avenue, in 1986. Urban Florist is one of the oldest small businesses in the Miracle Mile, despite a less than promising start:
“I remember the first day I opened, my family came and we pulled up to the shop and the whole front was spray painted with graffiti,” Bryan laughs at the memory. “We were from a little country town in Connecticut and my father said, ‘What kind of neighborhood is this?’”
But the Miracle Mile suited Bryan. He discovered the area when he came west on vacation and decided to stay. Flowers have always been his passion. Back east he had studied floriculture, design, and the business aspects of the trade. So, he found work at a florist shop on Doheny. After three years there, he decided he could run a shop on his own and, with a loan from his father, Urban Florist opened for business.
At the beginning he was a one man enterprise: “I would answer the phone, make the arrangement, turn on the answering machine, get in the car, go deliver it, come back, get the messages, call the customers back…” He shakes his head and chuckles.
Now he has two employees: a designer and delivery driver. Although, he temporarily increases his staff to meet the demand on Mother’s Day and Valentine Day.
One of the things Bryan enjoys most about his profession is going downtown to the flower mart three mornings a week. He typically arrives there at 5 AM, although the wholesale market opens at 2 AM. “It’s a whole other world,” he says. “It’s lucky I was born a morning person.”
The florist business has changed since he first opened his establishment. “Thirty years ago people went to florist shops to buy flowers. Now they go to Ralph’s and Trader Joe’s. There used to be all these ‘bucket shops’ with rows and rows of flowers and that’s where you went to buy your flowers. But now Costco does weddings and once that happened all the bucket shops disappeared.” Fortunately, 90% of his business comes from internet orders or over the phone.
The shop is open six days a week. “You’re almost married to the business,” he states. “I do this more than I do anything else. And I like it. I haven’t had a summer vacation in ten years or more. But I’m very lucky. I grew up with a dad who said, ‘Kids, if you’re going to do something, make sure you like it,’ because he wasn’t happy with his corporate job with General Electric. He said, ‘Be happy with what you do, because you’re going to be at work more than you’re going to be at home.’”
Local customers respond positively to the fact that the shop is not a cookie-cutter franchise design. “People walk in and say, ‘this is so quaint, what a sweet little shop.’ You can almost hear them take a sigh of relief.”
“Fortunately, for me, all these new apartments buildings going up in the Miracle Mile are going to help a lot.” He’s been contracted to provide weekly flower arrangements for the leasing office and community spaces in the new mixed-use apartment building on the southeast corner of Wilshire and La Brea. “And, of course, Park La Brea has always been good for me. We do a lot of deliveries there.”
At this point in the interview, a delivery of small potted succulents was made, which prompted Bryan to remark: “At the end of the school year the moms order thank you gifts for their kid’s teachers. It’s another great part of being a little neighborhood florist: I get to see the circle of life. I’m on the second generation now. I’ve done kid’s proms, weddings, and now they’re having babies. I love it. It makes me feel small town. How wonderful to have people walk by every day and stick their head in the door and say, ‘Good morning, Bryan.’”
But the flip side of being in business of celebration is accommodating those who are in mourning. “I can’t tell you how many folks who were my original customers and their families will call me to say that they have passed away. It can be very upsetting. I’ve known them for years and all of a sudden they’re gone. I’m very attached to this neighborhood, there are some great people here.”
5310 W. 8th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Monday–Friday: 9 AM–5 PM
Saturday: 9 AM–2PM
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