A Floral Affair: A garden menagerie for the sense
Author: David Gignillat | Photographer: Photography by Anne
Walk into A Floral Affair, one of Hilton Head Island’s top florists, and you’re in for a treat—a garden menagerie for the senses that you’ll not soon forget. Scores of colorful silk flower arrangements line the spacious displays and walls. A second-floor consultation area provides seclusion for prospective brides and grooms planning that special day. Walk over to the retail cooler, and you’re likely to find several creative freshly-designed arrangements in a variety of containers and styles. Look up, and you’d half-expect to find a Michelangelo fresco embellishing the showroom’s high, cathedral-like ceiling. Yet for all its visual splendor, the store’s stunning interior is still one of its best-kept secrets.
“Yes, we do have a walk-in shop,” said owner Dawn Kiritsy. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that. We do a great wedding business, but we also have a beautiful showroom. We’re finding now that people are starting to come to us because they see interesting stuff here and they know they’re going to get something different.”
A Floral Affair offers everyday flowers, including roses, and tropical dish gardens (for both delivery and walk-in purchase) and also custom-designed corsages and boutonnieres for formal wear. Kiritsy uses a core group of trusted floral wholesalers, and is able to custom-order rare flowers from as far away as South America.
Kiritsy first moved to Hilton Head Island 14 years ago from New Hampshire, arriving without formal floral training, but with a passion for art and design and an abiding desire to own her business.
“We moved down here, and [my husband] said ‘Honey, let’s start a business,’ and he picked this [industry],” said Kiritsy, who also contemplated opening a bike shop or a small restaurant at the time. “So here we are.”
The couple purchased an existing floral shop on Dillon Road, purchasing the Cardinal Road property (where their business now resides) in the summer of 2000. Taking the long view business-wise, Kiritsy and her husband waited until 2004 to custom-build their location. They own their facility, which is housed in a mostly light industrial corridor that’s home to offices and small warehouses.
Kiritsy quickly took to the floral business, learning from some of her first employees and picking up professional tips from her flower wholesalers. Dawn Kiritsy is the only florist on Hilton Head Island that is a member of the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD), a Baltimore, Md.-based non-profit organization that is the largest and oldest entity dedicated to recognizing and promoting the art of floral design as a professional career.
According to the AIFD, in order to receive full accreditation and use the AIFD designation at their store, members must demonstrate design artistry by creating five arrangements that are judged based upon category interpretation, scale, balance, line, color and creativity, among other criteria.
“We like to get real creative with our arrangements,” said Kiritsy, who is also a certified floral designer (CFD), as recognized by the AIFD. “We experiment all the time, even to this day, 14 years after we opened.”
Kiritsy has carefully selected a talented staff of designers and has tried to cultivate a team approach where all of her employees have input into the creative process.
“It’s a real team of people here; we kind of fit like a glove. Everyone is on the same page,” Kiritsy said. “It almost feels like we’ve brought a bunch of artists into this place, and each one of us is a different part of the sprocket or wheel. When you have that good energy, everyone just flows together real well.”
For clients considering flowers for a major event like a wedding or a special occasion, the staff at A Floral Affair is able to customize their approach to different tastes. Kiritsy and her staff often ask their clients how they decorate their home or other spaces to get a sense of personal preferences.
“I always tell people, ‘Even though you may not think you have a style, you do have a style,’ said Kiritsy. “And I really try to put that in the design that we are doing.”
And in a somewhat austere economic environment, she takes pride in being able to work with a client’s financial constraints. “We like to work within whatever peoples’ budgets are. If [a client] lets us be more creative and lead them, they’re going to get what we do best,” Kiritsy added.
Over the years, A Floral Affair has developed a positive reputation with the legion of facilities that island visitors and residents use for major events and weddings. The shop was also featured on a recent episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition that chronicled the renovation of a home in Beaufort County.
“I think we work really well with a lot of venues, and we’re on many of their preferred vendor lists,” said Kiritsy. “We come in, we’re clean, we’re neat, we’re professional, we work together, and we’re very courteous.”
According to designer Erin Taylor, who has worked 17 years in the floral industry, the staff at A Floral Affair reflects the owner’s positive example. “She’s incredible, and I tell her that to her face. Everybody loves her. There’s something about her that you’re just drawn to. She has great energy, and she’s just really cool for a boss,” Taylor said. “She’s down here every day—she works with us, hangs with us—she’s just a good person. She’s amazing.”
A Floral Affair is located at 20-A Cardinal Road on Hilton Head Island. The retail location is open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1p.m. To place an order or to schedule an event consultation, please contact A Floral Affair at (800) 898-0289 or (843) 681-8700. For more information, including hundreds of pictures of arrangements, please visit afloralaffairhhi.com or afloralaffairweddings.com.