When you walk into Amy Maloney’s house, it looks like any ordinary house. Magnets, pictures and notes cling to the fridge, art hangs from the wall and light streams in from the windows. There are three cups on the kitchen table, each full of pencils sorted by color, with a large sheet of paper showing Maloney’s latest landscape design laid out beside them.
The door adjacent to the kitchen leads downstairs, marking the barrier between Maloney’s house and her workshop. Wood tables are covered in flower stems, leaves and paper. Pots line the shelves, soft yellow lights hang from the ceiling and green wreaths are laid out across the table in the back room, surrounded by piles of ribbons and pinecones.
Maloney runs her business Pretty Flowers out of her Brunswick home and has done so since 1991, after her daughters were born.
“I decided I didn’t want to work outside the house, so I had to figure out something I could do at home. I grew up in California, and I followed my grandmother around in her gardens and always loved that and thought, ‘you know, I can do that’,” Maloney said.
Pretty Flowers began with casual sales from her home on Mere Point Road. A big break for her, she said, was the chance to do arrangements for Bowdoin and design gardens on campus.
“That was huge. [Doing an arrangement for the College] really got things going because I’d do something here and something there for somebody because they’d asked, but it wasn’t really a viable business,” Maloney said. “So that was when it all kind of started.”
Today, Pretty Flowers has seven employees and takes on projects ranging from wedding flower arrangements to holiday wreaths to landscape design.
Whenever possible, Maloney tries to source flowers from local farms. “I do depend more and more on local flower farms. I’m very much into not harming the earth any way that I can, but I also like things to be unique,” Maloney said. “There are limits to locally grown flowers [because farms] tend to grow the same things.”
When she cannot find a flower she needs locally, she drives to Boston to hand-select it from the New England Flower Market.
She used to travel to the New England Flower Market to pick up flowers once a week. These frequent trips helped Maloney separate her business from other Brunswick florists in terms of types of flowers available.
“When I started, there were 20 vendors. I think they’re down to eight [now],” Maloney said. “Things have changed. We get things shipped up as much as we can, but I liked [going to Boston]. I’ve always loved to just go see. I’m not very good at planning things—I go with my gut a lot.”
A flower business in Maine, however, comes with its share of challenges, Maloney explained. When business slows in January and February, Pretty Flowers plans for the coming seasons. In winter, the business sells wreaths, each one decorated by hand with specialized features, intricate ribbons and colorful arrangements.
“It’s had ups and downs because there’s a price point people don’t want to pay. We charge $125 for ours, and they last for a long, long time, but people have a tough time when they can buy one for 40 bucks from L.L. Bean and have it sent wherever,” Maloney said. “But we’ve got people that have been buying wreaths from us for 20 years, so I guess we’re doing something right.”
Today, people can buy flowers from the internet with a simple search, which, along with social media, Maloney cites as a reason for the shrinking of the flower market in Boston and other specialty orders. Maloney, however, still values personal relationships with vendors, customers and employees for the success of her business.
“I rely on [the market vendors] to make sure I get the best product, and hopefully that’ll keep going. I do worry if I can’t just go and depend on those really crucial people that helped me make my business unique,” she said. “I lead by example.”
Having worked in sales, Maloney values the creativity and freedom that having her own business affords her. Her favorite thing about Pretty Flowers is “the fact that it’s mine,” she said. “I worked for other people for the first 30 years of my life, and I’m glad to work for myself.”
“I just [enjoy] making people happy with what we can do, being artistic, and having a business where people appreciate our artistry and want to have us do things for them, whether it be in their garden or on their kitchen table.”