What do you do when you open a new shop just a few weeks before the country shuts down, and your primary source of income has been cut off temporarily? Well, in the case of Aubrey Maria Sirois, this drastic change of circumstances forced her to rethink her business model for the time being.
In January 2020, Sirois was prepared to open the doors to her flower shop Juniper & Co., which faces the courthouse parking lot in Edgartown across from Espresso Love. Then pandemic restrictions prevented the opening, and, more problematically, Sirois’ event flower business, Aubrey Maria Designs, lost the bulk of its scheduled events due to COVID. “We were planning on selling overflow from the events in the shop,” says Sirois. “We have to buy so much product for events that there is always excess.”
Aubrey Maria Designs began very humbly six years ago with Sirois (who worked as a designer at Donaroma’s for many years) operating out of a shed on the property of the late John Moffet. As the business grew, Sirois moved from the shed to Moffet’s porch, and eventually into the beloved Edgartown resident’s home. “When it threatened to take over the entire house, I ended up renting a garage space,” recalls Sirois. “I could never have done this without John’s help all along the way.”
According to the Juniper & Co. website, “Aubrey Maria Designs specializes in floral arrangements for weddings, weekly installations, holidays, and all other life events that can be accented by floral expressions.”
Luckily, florist shops were given permission to open temporarily during Mother’s Day week, and Sirois used the opportunity for a soft opening. Along with flowers, she and her staff decided to complement the floral selection by offering customers a variety of home goods and artwork, all made by local artists and artisans.
“At the same time that we lost most of the events we had on the books, a lot of artists lost the venues for showing their work when the festivals and fairs closed,” says floral designer Amy Coffey, who has worked with Sirois’ flower business since the beginning.
When Juniper finally opened on a more permanent basis last June, the store had transformed into a combination flower shop/art gallery, with wonderful scents filling the space. Paintings, photographs, ceramics, and more worked beautifully in coordination with the impressive array of floral offerings to provide a soothing, multisensory experience.
Currently work by nine artists is on view at Juniper. The selection includes L.A. Brown’s atmospheric Vineyard photos, mixed-media abstracts by Darcie Lee Hanaway, colorful impressionistic landscapes by Beth Smith, Steve Lohman’s wire sculptures, and Judith Drew Schubert’s paintings and textile designs. Prices range from around $100 to $2,000 for some of the larger works.
The extensive inventory of artisan-made products includes mirrors by Laura Silber of Demolition Revival, cutting boards, ornaments, and coasters from Wild Canvas Design, and ceramics and jewelry from a variety of designers, as well as locally made soaps, candles, and beauty products. Edible offerings include M.V. Sea Salt, Enchanted Chocolates, Chilmark Coffee, Linda Alley’s Jams, Mimi’s Hittin’ the Sauce hot sauce, cookies from Chappy Chips, and honey from Island Bee Co. Gift baskets featuring Island sundries and other products are always available.
Sirois continues to add new artists and artisans to the mix all the time. “In the beginning, I started contacting some artists that I knew,” she says. “I wanted mainly to feature female, Island-based artists. In the beginning we had clothing and just a little bit of everything, but I’ve tried to streamline it more toward gift items, and then the artwork.”
“Our focus is still on our events,” says Sirois. “Everything else is kind of a wonderful extra business.”
“People like buying art here,” she adds. “It’s not the typical gallery experience. We’re really busy working on floral arrangements, so people can come in and feel comfortable just browsing around. It’s a different type of venue.”
Juniper is now open daily, and visitors can drop by to buy flowers, browse the art offerings, or to just enjoy the sights and smells of spring. Artwork shares the space with arrangements, often working well in tandem. It’s a happy marriage of botanicals and local design, and Sirois is thrilled to have the chance to work directly with customers, as well as help support local artists. “John [Moffet] just did so much for me,” she says. “It’s not easy to start a business on the Vineyard. I had a dream, and he let me realize it. Now I feel like I’m transferring that to artists who need a space to show their work. I tried to take that generous spirit that he instilled in me, and try to share it with others.”
Juniper & Co., 18 North Summer St., Edgartown. Call 508-939-4098, or visit junipermv.com.