Looking back, Samantha McCrary was never supposed to be a floral designer. In 2010, McCrary was a barista at Houndstooth Coffee, helping open the company's first shop on North Lamar Boulevard.
Passionate about the work, she began taking on more responsibility for the homegrown coffee brand and training to be a manager. "I started bringing in fresh flowers per the owner’s request," McCrary tells CultureMap.
At first, McCrary would just run across the street to buy premade bundles from Central Market. "Then I drove past Austin Floral Company and popped in there to see what they had," she says. "What I found was awesome, but I also realized that everything was in large bundle quantities, so I’d have to arrange them myself."
So arrange she did. "I wasn’t very good," she laughs. "I didn’t know how color palettes worked, or technical ways to cut your stems. Every week was kind of trial and error, and I really learned using the materials. And then I got more attracted to rare flowers, flowers you wouldn’t see in the grocery store."
Soon, her wild and intricate work was attracting the attention of Houndstooth's customers, including Ben Edgerton, co-owner of Contigo, who asked McCrary to start doing weekly arrangements for the east side restaurant. "And that just kept happening," she says. "Guests would ask who did the flowers, and find out it was me."
After four years of juggling Americanos and anemones, enough customers inquired about McCrary's work that she was able to start her own company, Bricolage Custom Florals, taken from a French word which translates to "creation from a diverse range of available things."
In 2015, she moved into a small east side workshop and continued to build her reputation as in-demand designer for weddings and events, as well as hospitality hotspots like Contigo, Juniper, and Emmer & Rye. This month, the 26-year-old entrepreneur takes another big step: opening a new retail shop at 2823 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
The shop, also called Bricolage Custom Florals, will be part workshop, part retail space. Guests coming to peruse the pre-made arrangements, potted plants, and macrame holders can also expect to see floral designers in action, creating custom designs. In addition to retail, customers can take part in workshops or place orders for original arrangements.
McCrary admits that moving from her private studio to retail is equal part terrifying and thrilling. "It’s scary because you have that vulnerability factor. You’re presenting this to the world, [and] you don’t know how it’s going to work out," she says.
But her new space also offers McCrary the chance to return to her, pardon the expression, roots. "I’m excited to be in that shop environment again. Before flowers, all I did was work in customer service. I miss creating that regular, neighborhood spot. I feel like I'll be able to do that here."
Bricolage Custom Florals opens on Saturday, January 13 with an open house and celebratory beverages and light bites. Bricolage will be open Thursday through Friday from noon-5 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9 am-3 pm.