Home & Garden Vermont Keeps Blooming in Burlington | Housewares and decoration | seven days
One day in late May, Jana Coeli returned to inspect her vibrant arrangement of pink, prickly larkspur, white snapdragon flowers, violet columbine sprigs, and yellow clumps of rustic yarrow, searching for missing color or form. She plucked a swollen pale green cabbage rose from a nearby flower bucket and tucked it between the other stems in a shallow rectangular vase. Soon the dining table will be decorated at Burlington’s engagement party.
“It’s supposed to look like a garden,” Jana said of the arrangement that a longtime customer ordered from her gift shop in downtown Burlington. “It’s going to take some time. There’s going to be a lot of layers.”
Most days at the College Street store, Jana plants herself at the small flower shop in the back, buried in flowers. The home and garden are bursting with colour, texture and variety – and not just from the flowers. Most of the products, from pillows to ceramics to wall decor, fit the theme of the store’s name, evoking nature and the outdoors.
Jana’s husband, Jack Quilley, runs the front desk and takes flower orders over the phone. Their dog, Camper, a small white dog, often joins them in the store and loves to sit at that counter. Jack delivers notes to his wife containing instructions for the arrangements.
“Two packages, my dear, for tomorrow morning,” he said, putting the phone away. One could go to a graduation party and the other to a patient at the University of Vermont Medical Center. “She saw the flowers we gave to the ICU,” he added of the client.
Every two weeks, Jana designs an arrangement for the lululemon sportswear store on Church Street, which calls for all white flowers. For Zabby & Elf’s Stone Soup Café across College Street, she asks co-owner Avery Rifkin what he wants. He always answered: “What are you doing,” she said.
In addition to custom orders, Jana sells fresh bouquets to visiting customers for $20 to $40 each. Or you will design a custom set on the spot.
This time of year, 75 percent of the store’s flowers come from nearby flower growers, including June Farm at Intervale in Burlington and Sparrowhawk Farm in Charlotte. Every week, growers call Jana to let Jana know what’s available, from modern lilacs to peonies to June Farm’s snapdragons—particular favourites.
“When I dropped those the other day, I felt dizzy,” Jana said, caressing sprigs of white, apricot-colored buds that looked like pursed lips. “I mean they’re beautiful.”
When local options wither in the winter, Home & Garden relies on shipments from Green Mountain Florist Supply, a South Burlington wholesaler that supplies imported varieties year-round, including roses from Holland. During Vermont’s growing season, imports account for only about a quarter of the home and garden product mix.
Jana paused her garden-style flower arranging to help a customer with a bouquet of tulips. They were the store’s last seasonal selections from von Trapp Flowers in Waitsfield.
“It was way out of my way,” client Allie Dousevicz admitted. After seeing a post by von Trapp on Instagram, she drove from Essex to pick up a bunch of pink tulips with fringe tips for $20.
Dousevicz said she made the trip to Home & Garden “because I can also find ornaments and other things that I love.” Treasures from the past included a stylish diary and a mushroom-patterned sweatshirt that her 10-year-old daughter frequently wears. “It’s always things you can’t find anywhere else,” Dosevich said.
Adjacent to Jana’s flower counter is a selection of recycled plastic microfiber dish towels ($16), which are among the store’s best sellers. Along the upper walls are a collection of vintage-style posters ($20 each) featuring plants, honeybees, forest foragers and owls.
The store offers at least six brands of candles, including Capri Blue’s popular orange-scented Volcano collection and twin-wick floral Linnea fragrances for $40 each. Baby gifts in the back corner include a surplus of impossibly soft jelly stuffed animals.
Home & Garden also carries Beekman 1802 soaps and body lotions from upstate New York, gingham hats and bucket bags designed by Erin Flett from Maine, and Grace and Liliko’i jewelry made by mother and daughter Williston.
The range of books includes flower-focused titles on dahlias and ranunculus as well as signed copies of Homemade: Cooking from My New England RootsWritten by celebrity chef Matt Jennings of Charlotte. Racks of ceramic vases and jugs, flowers, and flower pillows dominate the center of the store.
One of Home & Garden’s bestsellers is a $52 “ABCs of Life” poster that proposes an alphabet philosophy: “Build Something” for B, “Ignore the Skeptics” for I, and “Plant a Seed” for P, etc.
The Qualls raised their two children on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where Jack, now 71, had a thriving law practice. Jana, 62, was his office manager and a flower arranger. She took a workshop in North Carolina from a floral design expert who became a friend; In 2016, Jana opened a gift and flower shop near her home in South Carolina.
In April 2018, the couple moved to Vermont “to get away from hurricanes and be close to our grandchildren,” Jack said. Their daughter, Megan, lives in Burlington and works part-time at the store during busy seasons. Her yard was the source of a spray of spirea in her engagement party design.
The Qualeys intended to retire when they settled into their apartment in the College and Battery Building. They were walking downtown on College Street and passed a small free-standing brick building that then housed the Vermont Farm Table showroom. Jana thought she was just imagining it when she suggested opening a store there if the space became available.
In September of that year, it happened. Jack called the landlord the day they saw the rent sign and they had a lease within a week. After some facelifts, Home & Garden opened in November 2018, just in time for the holidays.
Jana knew Home & Garden wouldn’t do well selling the nautical-themed merchandise that dominated its store shelves in South Carolina. “I used to make oysters and shrimp,” she said. “It was very coastal.”
There, she also sold a large number of paper goods, monogrammed objects, and plaques bearing Bible quotations that had not become widespread in Vermont. For locals and tourists alike, she needed “moose, cows and mushrooms,” and she learned through trial and error, she said.
Jana views Home & Garden’s standing among other shops in downtown Burlington, including Slate and Common Deer, as a source of gifts for any budget. “I just want to find beautiful things at affordable prices,” she said. “That’s why people come from Essex.”
Sales have risen slightly but steadily each year, with retail merchandise accounting for about 80 percent, Jack said. “You have to have all of this, to do this,” Jana said, pointing around the store and then pointing at her florist.
“We rely a lot on foot traffic,” Jack added. “Most people who walk by aren’t looking for flowers. They’re looking for gifts.”
When the store closed for nearly two months during the COVID-19 lockdown, the owners created their first e-commerce site and continue to take flower orders, while offering free regional delivery. Jack said he drove in one day from North Hero to Basin Harbor in Vergennes. Jana remembered that Bloom’s stems covered the floor of the house and garden.
She credited loyal customers with Home & Garden’s survival: “They’ve stayed with us.”
He was one of those early supporters who put the engagement party order together. When Jana added the finishing touches, tucking her daughter’s spirea sprigs around the cabbage rose, she deemed the arrangement satisfactory, “as if you were walking through an English garden.”
(tags for translation)nest