Pine State Flowers to open in 1930s-era flower shop

Feb. 25, 2014 @ 09:36 AM

A now-empty florist shop at the corner of Lakewood Avenue and Old Chapel Hill Road has unused potential in the eyes of Maggie Smith and Susie Zadeh.

“I just think it’s perfect,” 27-year-old Smith said of the painted brick building that’s located around the corner for the Lakewood YMCA and across the road from the Lakewood Shopping Center.
On the inside, there are green tiles and green-painted walls. There are stacks of old handwritten cards with customers’ names and information, an old ledger, and pictures of flowers from the building’s former life. In the front room, dried flowers are still up in fixtures on the walls.
The building was built in the 1930s by nursery operator Fred Roll, according to the blog about local Durham architecture by downtown real estate executive Gary Kueber. The building is a Tudor Revival-style brick building with a steep side-gabled roof and an arched entrance, according to documentation about the Lakewood Park Historic District from the National Register of Historic Places.
Smith said they plan to fix up the front of the building, sealing the floors and re-painting the walls. They want to re-open it as a flower shop called Pine State Flowers in March. Smith, who has been involved in the local food, small farming movement, said the idea is to, as much as possible, make the shop a place where local farmers can sell their locally grown flowers.
“That’s the idea – to support, as much as possible, people who are growing locally,” she said.
This isn’t the first time that the location has been brought back to life. Previously, chef and urban farmer Jeff Ensminger used the shop and beds behind it for a community-supported agriculture garden project as part of the nonprofit N.E.E.M., which stands for Natural, Environmental and Ecological Management.
Ensminger said the site was a “jungle” and the nonprofit took steps to tame it and refurbish buildings there, including a greenhouse that’s no longer standing. He said he previously lived down the street from the old shop, and would visit with a descendent of Roll’s. Ensminger said Roll had established the shop across from what used to be the Lakewood Park amusement center, which was at the end of an electric trolley line. His nursery was a place where people could come and picnic, he said.
N.E.E.M. now has other urban land to work with, and decided to leave the site. Ensminger supports the proposed use for the site and believes it will be successful.
Smith said they’re planning to open the shop using flowers sourced from local small farms, but want to supplement that with their own. Over the past couple of weeks, she said she’s starting out growing flowering plants in her home. Eventually, she said they want to have their own flowers in the shop as well. She said she has the seedlings under florescent lights with a homemade heating mat, and will transplant them into the soil. Smith said they’ve also planted a small number of bulbs behind the shop where the old shop’s greenhouses used to be and have done work preparing other space in the beds.
Smith said she has “just been around farming,” and has worked at the urban Durham farm Homegrown City Farms. She’s originally from Tennessee, and came to Durham to enter the certificate program at the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies. She said she was also an intern there for about two years. She and Zadeh both work as baristas at the downtown independent coffee shop Cocoa Cinnamon, but she said she plans to transition to Pine State Flowers full time.
She said she believes it’s a good time and place to open the business since Durham supports independent businesses.