The farmers market circuit has a new business on board, the Sprig Flower Truck. Scarsdale High School alumna Dana Karin purchased a vintage truck and since April she and her husband have been making the rounds selling fresh flowers at farmers markets in Scarsdale, New Rochelle, Chappaqua, Irvington and other places.
Before buying the truck and starting her flower business, Karin worked in education, initially with Teach for America and then as a classroom teacher for five years. While she was working toward a doctorate in education at New York University, she said, her passion for education dimmed. She realized she wanted a profession in which she could be on her feet and use her hands more.
During a girls’ night out with her cousin, Karin took a floral design class and fell in love with it. After exploring floral design in depth, she left the Ph.D. program at NYU and started working an entry-level job at a flower shop. While working at the shop, Karin absorbed everything she could about the flower business. The biggest surprise to her was the fact that flowers being resold in New York are often flown in from other countries, such as Holland or Colombia.
“It sort of irked me that this natural, beautiful product went through [this process],” said Karin, “It has plastic and Styrofoam and boxes and went through a fumigation process in Miami. There is a crazy amount of stuff that happens to flowers before they get here, and it made me sad.”
Karin said that realization made her determined to have all the flowers locally sourced when she started her business. Along the way, she discovered the “slow flowers” movement, which is modeled after the farm-to-table “slow food” business. Most of the farmers she gets her flowers from now are located in Connecticut or the Hudson River Valley and everything she sells is in season.
“In February for Valentine’s Day I’m not going to have red roses,” said Karin, “but there’s always substitutions. There are gorgeous flowers all year round. It’s about finding beauty in what is seasonal.”
The Sprig Flower Truck this summer features zinnias, sunflowers, snapdragons, rich foliage, and many other seasonal varieties.
Karin said the difference between locally sourced flowers and flowers that are flown in is evident in how long they last and how vibrant they are. Flowers that are flown in look “anemic,” she said, and her customers come to her truck week after week commenting on how long her flowers lasted compared to the bouquets they used to buy at the grocery store.
Karin said she decided to run her business out of a vintage truck because she felt that a brick and mortar flower store wouldn’t survive and she wanted to do something beyond wedding bouquets and table arrangements. Looking for a truck she could convert and customize, she met a man selling a truck that had been used as a bar. He wouldn’t sell her his truck, she said, because he wanted it to remain as a bar truck. Instead, he helped her find a truck and then helped design and modify it to suit her business plan.
Within a few days, he had located a truck, and that weekend Karin and her husband drove to New Hampshire to pick up what would become the Sprig Flower Truck. Five months later, the flower truck was remade and ready to roll.
“Part of why I love this business is because it’s like a joy-mobile,” said Karin. “People are either smiling at the flowers or smiling at the truck.”
Karin said her husband, a producer at CBS, is her biggest cheerleader and tries to help out at as many farmers markets he can.
Every new business comes with a learning curve, and Karin said once she feels more established she hopes to set up shop by the Scarsdale train station so people in her hometown can buy fresh flowers to decorate their homes or give to their spouses.
As an alum of Scarsdale Alternative School, which prides itself on community building and instilling its graduates with creativity and critical thinking skills, Karin said she credits the A-School with helping her develop into someone who could follow her passions and start a flower truck business. In her sophomore year, Karin was the “flower head” for graduation, meaning she was in charge of collecting all the flowers the A-School used to decorate the school’s home base building on graduation day.
“I credit the A-School with my real understanding of what community is, and my real desire to be part of a community,” said Karin, “and I see Sprig as a community builder.”
At farmers markets Karin offers customers the chance to pick out any flowers for the custom bouquets she creates right before their eyes.
“To be able to stand there and say ‘I like this texture, I like this color’ and feel it and then actually build it is something really special … I think people really like the engagement,” said Karin about building bouquets.
The Sprig Flower Truck is at the Scarsdale farmers market every Thursday, Irvington farmers market every Sunday, and New Rochelle every Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit sprigflowertruck.com.