Cool Careers: Alison Westlake & Coriander Girl

DSC_0935I met Alison about a year ago when Meg and I were putting together a post for Blooming Leopold – sharing some of our favourite haunts in our neighbourhood, Parkdale. Alison is the amazing lady behind the beautiful floral & antique shop, Coriander Girl. Located in our lovely little neighbourhood of Parkdale, she opened her doors in 2009.  Alison has such a beautiful aesthetic, and her shop reflects that in the most undeniably sweet & charming way. Seriously, this woman is incredible. Not only is she talented with her wee hands, and knack for interior decorating, she is also such a kind and gentle person.

Alison was sweet enough to let me come by for a few hours, snap some photos of her shop (and little bunny Harry), and talk flowers & antiques with me. She was also kind enough to answer some interview questions so I could share them with you.

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DSC_0776How did you get into your line of work?

I was an actress living in Parkdale. I dreamed of opening a flower boutique, not
because of any real experience but just based on my love for garden grown flowers.
I worked for a landscape design company when I was in school and fell in love with
flowers then. I turned 30 and started really questioning my career, I thought, “why
not now?” I put it out there verbally to friends and family that I wanted to open
a flower shop and a friend told me about the ‘for rent’ sign down the street from
my apartment. I met the sweetest little old man who asked me “You take?” I said,
“I take.” With $50 in my bank account, I ran home and spent 3 days writing my
business plan, borrowed $10,000 off of my Nana and opened the doors to Coriander
Girl one month later.

What came first, antique love, or floral love?

I always thought antique love came first but when I really think about it, I was
making floral bracelets out of dandelions when I was 7.

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DSC_0781All-time favourite bloom?

All time favourite bloom remains Queen Anne’s lace. It grows wild everywhere
including the fields on my mom and stepdads farm. Those fields were so romantic
to me as a teen. I’d curse the sky, crying over some lost love, wistfully dream about a
new crush, dream about traveling the world, all the while surrounded by these little
lacey snowflakes, no two exactly the same. They’re just so exquisite. Second to that,
any garden rose really, Astrantia is also a top 5 and Scabiosa too. It’s like choosing
your favourite child! How can I possibly do that?!

Favourite recent antique find?

A chippy old drop leaf table from one of my favourite
auctions on lower Roncesvalles. But I have an obsession with mason and apothecary
bottles. There has to be a 12 step program out there somewhere.

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DSC_0789Advice for anyone aspiring to open their own shop?

DO IT! If you think about all the reasons you shouldn’t do it, you won’t do it.
So stop thinking about it! Dreaming is great but doing is so much better. And if it
doesn’t work, you can always un-do it.

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DSC_0807How would you describe your aesthetic?

My aesthetic is a soft, neutral palette with floral accents, lacey textures. I always
say if it looks like you found it in grandmas closet, I’ll probably love it! Nothing
too contrived design wise. I like a house that’s lived in and comfortable but not
cluttered. With florals, the look is natural, like they were just picked from the garden
and loosely arranged.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I find inspiration anywhere from a city stroll to a country bike ride. I’m a sucker for
design blogs and magazines. A favorite Sunday afternoon is often spent catching up
on blogs and curling up with a favourite gardening magazine and endless cups of
tea.

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DSC_0819Favourite non-vase vase?

Favourite non vase would be anything old that holds water, from an old milk bottle,
to a watering can. I love using tea cups and creamers for wee arrangements. Old tins
are a staple for us.

Describe your process when styling a wedding.

When styling a wedding, it’s really about marrying the brides vision with our
aesthetic. We always make sure the couple loves the look of what we do because it’s
quite specific. The service we offer is unique in that we work with a local grower
and most of the florals are coming straight from local gardens. We ask our couples
for their colour scheme and most people are just so excited to see what’s blooming
the week of their wedding and they trust us to make beautiful arrangements from
what’s in season. We encourage our couples to supply their own vessels or rent
antique ones from us.

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DSC_0864Where do you like to get your flowers?

Our flowers come from a local grower, My Luscious Backyard and we frequent the
markets near the airport for specific things we need that our local grower is unable
to supply.

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DSC_0904Tell us a little about your home.

Our home is like the shop, creamy white walls, chippy furniture and doilies
everywhere. When I can, I bring home flowers and put them in every room. That’s
how I know I am doing what I love because even after a 14 hour day, I’ll still arrange
flowers for me and my husband.

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DSC_0927Do you host any workshops?

This Winter I’m so excited to finally introduce a series of floral workshops at the
store. It’s been a part of my business plan since that day I signed the lease and ran
home in tears.

You must feel incredibly accomplished.

To watch my wee business grow from a tiny seed into something so remarkably
rewarding, to check the boxes of all the things I had hoped for my business but can’t
believe actually came true. I realize just how powerful the laws of attraction can be
when you decide you deserve happiness.

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Thank you so much Alison for sharing a bit of your life with us!

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One thought on “Cool Careers: Alison Westlake & Coriander Girl

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