Barista turned florist Samantha McCrary is growing a business from the ground up.
By Hannah Phillips, Photos courtesy of Paige Newton Photography
Flowers were never part of the plan for Samantha McCrary, who, at 27, is one of Austin’s top florists—and one of its youngest. Beyond weddings, her company, Bricolage Curated Florals, provides weekly arrangements for restaurants, hotels and coffee shops throughout town.
McCrary started creating floral arrangements in 2011 as part of her weekly barista duties at Houndstooth Coffee, then one of just a few local coffee shops on the rise in Austin. Only 19 years old at the time, McCrary originally wanted to open her own coffee shop, so she saw Houndstooth as an opportunity to learn how small business works. She had always been creative and entrepreneurial, painting in her free time and working on both the corporate and local sides of the service industry, with respective stints at Starbucks and Galaxy Cafe. But she had no previous experience arranging flowers.
The seed to start putting together her own bouquets was planted by Houndstooth’s owner, Sean Henry, who saw regular floral arrangements as a small gesture of hospitality in his shop’s mission to “weave the pattern of coffee and people.” McCrary started by buying premade bundles from Central Market, but soon learned about the local business discount at nearby wholesaler Austin Flower Company.
“They provide large bundles of one type of flower or greenery, so I was forced to bring all those elements together,” McCrary says of her finds at Austin Flower Company. “It was very much a learned art, but my love for the process made it easier to create with that medium because there was passion behind it.”
As her passion and skills developed, her arrangements gained more attention at Houndstooth. Customers started commenting about the flowers as they ordered coffee, and McCrary’s confidence grew. In 2013, she gained her first commercial client when Ben Edgerton asked for weekly arrangements at his newly opened restaurant on Austin’s Eastside, Contigo.
“More than anything,” Edgerton says, “Samantha embodies a passion for what she’s doing, and I’m a believer that you should surround yourself with people who are that way.”
Her simple, natural-looking arrangements were unique in Austin at the time, which struck Edgerton as an ideal pairing for his restaurant’s interior design.
“Contigo is a simple space that’s not meant to be overwhelming,” he says. “The landscape itself plays the main role, and Samantha’s flowers complement that because they aren’t overwrought.” Creating arrangements for her two clients from the dining room of her apartment, McCrary registered her business name, Bricolage Curated Florals, with the State of Texas in 2014.
“Picking a business name brings so much vulnerability and expectation to live up to,” McCrary says, but she landed on Bricolage, a French art term meaning “creating from whatever is around you.”
“One can be a bricoleur,” says McCrary, who personifies the term’s implied resourcefulness, not just in her arrangements, but also in the way she’s built a business from the ground up, allowing it to bloom in unlikely places like a bluebonnet in the crack of an Austin sidewalk.
Standing in her new studio on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, McCrary places French peonies in a white vase for a commercial client while sipping coffee from Houndstooth’s newest location, located right next door.
“Of course, I thought it would be super-romantic to be right next to where it all started,” she says.
Houndstooth’s commitment to hospitality is where she first gained a passion for what McCrary describes on the Bricolage website as “seasoning moments in life.” What Houndstooth weaves between coffee and people, McCrary creates between flowers and people. The fact that her business has grown entirely through word-of-mouth proves how her creations bring people together from different outlets.
Days after her 27th birthday in January, the studio, much like her florals, has become a carefully curated design, welcoming clients through the front doors as though they were walking into her kitchen. To the left is her work area, work tables and shears—“all the beautiful mess,” she calls it; to the right is raw shelving with candles, votives and vases for events and weddings. A small stand-up cooler in the back holds retail arrangements and it is situated behind a framed-out wall of exposed wood, McCrary’s favorite element.
“I wanted to separate the retail and work space, but I purposely didn’t enclose it so I could plant ivy that will wrap around both sides of the frame and create a very green feel,” McCrary says.
The ivy is slow-growing, she says, but she has faith and patience. Her customers, which now include South Congress Hotel, Le Politique and JW Marriott Austin, to name a few, have faith too.
“She doesn’t stop hustling,” Edgerton says. “I know she’ll grow that shop into a fully productive enterprise. I see her continuing down the path she’s been on for seven years. I see her continuing to flourish.”