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Sweet Smell of Success

By Constance Tillotson
Staff Writer

November 8 -- In a brick building on Fourth Street, amidst the bustle of Downtown, is a shop where people stop to literally smell the roses.

With its warm fresco-adorned walls, handpainted terracotta and gold sign, Dellarobbia, 1513 Fourth Street, evokes a quaint store in an old world town with its greeting – “Flower Shoppe.”

On the sidewalk, an old metal bucket holds a large bunch of deep yellow sunflowers whose richness evokes an Impressionist painting.

“It’s become a gathering place,” said Jolene Reynolds, one of the shop owners. “Some people drop by every single day. They bring us candy and lunch when we’re busy, or just stop in to enjoy the flowers.”

Opened some three years ago by Reynolds and Janet Farmer, besides a gathering place, Dellarobbia serves as an ongoing workshop in floral design. This is an offshoot of an introductory offer when the store opened. Now, with the holiday season fast approaching, the two owners have found themselves surrounded by special elves.

“We didn’t plan it that way, but the classes ended up training and grooming our own little helpers,” said Farmer.

Individuality and personal creativity flourish at the shop. Customers are encouraged to handpick selections and then use the large center table to create their own arrangements.

There are large, sweetly scented roses flown in from Holland and Ecuador, rare orchids that once called Thailand home and vibrant hydrangeas and ethereal calla lilies from New Zealand.

“We’re always here to provide any technical support,” said Farmer.

The soft-spoken Farmer is an interior design graduate whose handpainted Tuscan-inspired canvases hang on the walls. She also hand dyes fabrics and is the resident mural painter.

“I like to make them look old world,” said Farmer. “I will also do painting from pictures people have brought in.”

In the back of the store are stacks and stacks of Yellow Pages filled with hundreds of tiny, pressed flowers used on handmade greeting cards, invitations and sachets made from recycled paper. When brides order a Dellarobbia wedding invitation, complete with hand pressed flowers on every one, the guests don’t throw them away, they frame them.

Word has quickly spread about the shop’s reasonably priced but unique offerings. Cindy Crawford, Diane Keaton and Sally Field have all received Dellarobbia originals.

“One day this big SUV pulled up in front and out came James Gandolfini,” said Reynolds, referring to “The Sopranos” star. “He ordered huge vases full of flowers.”

Then there was the special request from Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons. “We got a call asking, ‘Can you please send a $1,000 wreath and 10 dozen pink roses by 7 a.m. tomorrow morning,’” said Reynolds. “It was 5 p.m. when we got the call.”

The delivery was to celebrate the birthday of Simmons’ wife, fashionista Kimora Lee. Always up for a flower emergency, the designers made it to the flower mart at 2 a.m., created a 6’ wreath and filled several vases with 120 baby pink roses.

“There she was sitting on set in this tiny little trailer,” said Farmer. “As she was getting her makeup applied, she just watched as she was surrounded by all these pink flowers.”

Simmons also ordered $300 of rose pedals that were immediately sent to Lee’s suite at the Four Seasons, where they were spread from front door to bedroom.

Romance lives within the designer’s walls. A current wedding calls for 30 centerpieces, each vase filled with multicolored shells Farmer and Reynolds hand picked from the 50 pounds ordered from East India. Purple delphiniums will float in the pool, and the two are putting the final touches on bouquets for nine bridesmaids and the bride.

During the holidays, local homes will be adorned with the shop’s signature handmade garland, and special holiday cards will become works of art on the mantle case.

“My favorite thing is when people call and say how much they love their arrangement,” said Farmer, “because I know we did it ourselves.”

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