Fresh, colorful blossoms from around the world at Hudson floral studio Molly Taylor and Co.

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Molly Taylor and Co.’s new storefront is just off the main drag of Hudson’s bustling Main Street shopping district. Nestled in a small center behind the city’s new Peace, Love & Little Donuts and the artful boutique Winds of Change, they have a combined 2,500 square feet to work with. (Photography by Mike Nied)

By Mike Nied

Mike Nied is a freelance journalist based in Northfield, Ohio, who is currently pursuing master's degree in journalism from Kent State University. He has additional bylines on KentWired and Idolator, a website specializing in pop music news. 

A lush garden of vibrant colors, velvety textures and heady scents blooms in the back room of Hudson-based flower shop Molly Taylor and Co. as owners Molly Taylor and Bailey Wilson prepare for one of the busiest holidays of their year: Valentine’s Day. 

It is now Friday, six days before the main event, and the cozy space overflows with a sense of organized chaos. Dressed in a blouse emblazoned with watercolor flowers, bangles climbing her wrists and platinum hair pulled back, Molly moves about across the studio in the midst of accomplishing multiple tasks.

With her own platinum hair cut in an asymmetrical, chic style, Bailey oversees the relaunch of their website and the implementation of a promotional campaign on social media. These tasks will help differentiate them from other local florists and, more importantly, online retailers who have slowly established a hold on the industry.

After beginning the planning process and ordering flowers more than three weeks ago, it is time for final adjustments before entering the creative design phase. 

This is evident with one glance around the store.

Bold ultraviolet and sunshine-kissed petals of irises unfurl while pastel-hued hellebore rests in a vase on the well-worn work bench. On another table, graceful stems of blush lisianthus arc with a sense of refined beauty. Nearby, the snow-white blooms of anemone are perfectly contrasted by their coal-black centers. 

Inside a large walk-in cooler more flowers are waiting to be transformed into arrangements for locals.

They have been coming in from various wholesalers over the course of the last week. Densely packed peonies were flown in from Israel and Chile, some of the best tulips can travel from Holland and the saccharine-scented petals of sweet pea flew all the way from Japan. 

“I think when I first got into the business my favorite thing was looking at all the countries on the boxes,” Molly recalled. 

Their latest shipment arrived moments ago. Contained within unassuming cardboard boxes, a new trove of treasured blossoms is waiting to be uncovered. This delivery includes unique foliage, dainty stems of lilac, a surprise addition of Queen Anne’s lace and the centerpiece of the holiday—their roses. 

Roses, particularly the classic red, remain one of the most popular flowers for Valentine’s Day. Last year the Society of American Florists reported to ABC that 250 million roses are produced for the holiday. 

Ready with pink-handled snips in hand and the inescapable hum of the cooler providing a relaxing background sound, Molly begins the next step of the lengthy process: conditioning the flowers.

“With roses we have to do it very quickly,” she said as she dug into the boxes in front of her to unearth the blooms. 

This is a process in and of itself. Packed for travel, they are wrapped in plastic, rubber-banded in place and the heads are encased in cardboard to keep them standing upright.

Before the flowers can be used in an arrangement they must be treated carefully. Any greenery below the waterline of a vessel must be removed or else it will rot. The stems also need a fresh cut to bring water up to the petals.

“You always cut at an angle so if you put the stems in a bucket they don’t sit at the bottom,” she explained, imparting wisdom any flower-lover should know even as she worked. 

After the cut, they get their first drink from a solution of Quick Dip, which packs a floral punch. The equivalent of a super-fertilizer you would feed outdoor plants, it serves an essential purpose: 

“It goes up into the stem and goes into the head of the rose. If you don’t do that you’ll get the rose looking bent.”

Although red roses remain an industry standard, the women work with a variety of colors. Explosive coral roses stood at attention in a bucket as they condition bunches of lavender, champagne and blush. 

This abundance of color and wholehearted embracing of rule-breaking speaks to their loose, garden-inspired style, which has become a signature of the company since it launched almost eight years ago.

Describing themselves as the “quintessential odd couple” on their website, Molly and Bailey met while studying floral design and marketing at Ohio State University’s Wooster campus.

“Bailey and I did not have this planned at all. It just kind of happened. It was like a freight train,” Molly admitted.

But things have a way of working out like that. Coming from different backgrounds, each brought something fresh to the table. 

“Neither of us would be where we are without each other. And we know that,” she said. 

Molly has flowers in her blood; they are all she knew growing up. Her mom worked at the Cleveland Botanical Garden and the Holden Arboretum and imparted a love for all things blooming on her daughter. 

“I’d worked in flower shops since high school. I kind of just did buckets, delivered, blended green in. I also had a gardening business. I’m pretty well-versed in perennial gardens.” 

This contributed to her love of herbs such as bay leaf, which Molly Taylor and Co. blends into their arrangements.

She brought her vast knowledge of flowers, supplemented by her latest studies, to the business. Another interest is the Victorian language of flowers, which imbues each bloom with a different meaning. This enables florists to weave special messages between loved ones into their arrangements with tulips representing a declaration of love or a pink rose speaking to a recipient’s grace.

Bailey is a born creative. A student from Kent State University, she studied in the school’s prestigious interior design program. But she said she felt limited by its reliance on computer drafting and design’s strict codes. 

“I really didn’t make it very far into it. I wanted something that was more like a craft, I guess,” she said. 

Her background provides a different sort of structure to the shop’s projects as evidenced by a recent design for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Working from a sketch of Bailey’s, the team created a larger-than-life arrangement, which was housed within a Plexiglas cube. Standing taller than six feet, the structure was the centerpiece of a recent event and a feat that blended interior design’s spatial reasoning with advanced floral design to create a complex, three-dimensional product.

Finished with the website, Bailey moved to the work bench and combined purple tulips with acacia branches for a customer. Small puffed bursts of yellow on the branches offset the spring-time favorite and spoke to her creative tastes. Working quickly and confidently, she displayed an adept hand and her easy sense of style.

Together these women have built the business and propelled it to unexpected heights.

When first opening, they worked out of Molly’s kitchen. As they grew, they purchased a storefront down the street from Hudson’s fire department. Things got bigger, and they moved to a new location once again in 2016.

Molly Taylor and Co.’s new storefront is just off the main drag of Hudson’s bustling Main Street shopping district. Nestled in a small center behind the city’s new Peace, Love & Little Donuts and the artful boutique Winds of Change, they have a combined 2,500 square feet to work with.

Half of the storefront is their workspace. In the back of the store they condition flowers. In the front they work on designing. The back walls are lined with industrial buckets for processing and standard glass vases for quick arrangements. The front houses more refined vessels for formal displays. A large cooler in the back keeps their blossoms in pristine condition.

The other half of the store offers additional room for events as well as space to sell other goods including candles, card stock and potted plants. 

But this space is even more multi-functional.

At a homey table in the midst of the open design they have taught workshops.

The space can also be rented out for events like wedding or bridal showers and has been used by other vendors as a pop-up shop. Its purpose is forever in flux. But it offers a variety of options and speaks to the business-savviness that helps Molly and Bailey succeed.

It is their versatility that sets them apart in an industry rapidly being flooded by other options. In 2016 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 55,000 jobs for florists in the United States. They projected a six percent decline in jobs over the next 10 years. 

The floral industry changes every year, and the internet is responsible for much of what is happening.

The rise of online floral businesses can steal from the bottom line of florists working on the ground across the country. The former often partners with local florists to create something called a wire service. 

Using this, customers can purchase a specific arrangement online, which will then be created at a local shop and delivered to their home. But the promise of a quick and easy delivery is not always that fantastic.

“They are bad for any consumer because you are paying more for an arrangement,” Bailey admitted. “And all the arrangements that they show online, not every florist can stock those flowers. So, you’re not always getting exactly what you ordered.”

She said sometimes the quality is not that great either. 

“I think it’s hurt the industry because people get so disgusted,” Molly added. 

Although Molly Taylor and Co. had been involved in a wire service previously, they removed themselves from the situation.

“It was so hard to get out of, but we did and it’s the best thing we ever did. We were embarrassed being in it to be honest.”

The other service creating unlikely shifts in the business is Instagram.

The photo-sharing application has given birth to a renaissance of floral appreciation and has shifted trends toward the lush garden-like bouquets Molly Taylor and Co. favor. But it also risks cheapening the work behind creating these ethereal, seemingly carefree arrangements.

“The only thing I think Instagram hurts is it just makes it look so easy,” Bailey explained. 

The reality is that floral design is anything but easy. In the last hour alone, Molly, Bailey and the rest of their team have been hard at work for one holiday while also balancing visits from customers and the ringing phone. They alluded to the importance of planning, creativity and more than a little bit of patience when working with live products. 

“The easy part is the design work,” Molly said. “If everything came in alive and beautiful, our job would be so easy.”

Unfortunately, that is often not the case.

“See what you’re seeing?” she asked.

She pointed at a bucket of bubblegum pink and peach ranunculus. The densely packed petals are as beautiful as a spring morning. But several of them have browning petals. Some of the stems are broken. 

“That can’t go out.”

The broken stems can probably be salvaged with some wire. They will straighten the stems before they go into an arrangement. All hope is not lost there. 

The browning petals are a different story. In an industry where beauty is the goal for any final product, it is unthinkable to send out an arrangement in anything but pristine shape. The decaying flowers are useless. 

These, and any other damaged blooms, must be carefully tracked. Molly, Bailey or one of their assistants will document the box the product came from and take a photo of the merchandise to send to their wholesaler.

“Then we pray we get credit because we have to buy more product,” Molly admitted.

Bad flowers are a nightmare plaguing florists across the country, and she said it is particularly bad around the holidays. This is especially true in stores that source unique options.

“We don’t get the ordinary carnations and mums. So, we’ve got a lot of beautiful select flowers.” 

But that comes at a price and with a risk.

“Some things they’re picking too soon. Some things they’re picking too late.”

And this simply won’t do. 

“The biggest compliment we can get is that, not only do people say they love the arrangement, but sometimes they say two weeks, or even three weeks later my arrangement’s still alive.”

For Molly and Bailey, they are planning well beyond the two to three weeks an arrangement lasts. After Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, another flower-centric holiday, is right around the corner. 

And the end of one holiday allows them to return their attention to designing for events.

Weddings and other events are the cornerstone of Molly Taylor and Co. They had two in January and will steadily pick up more as they enter the depths of wedding season in the spring and summer. The rush continues throughout the remainder of the year. Last September they had six weddings in one weekend.
Whereas holidays require them to blindly predict what will be needed, weddings offer more stability.

“You know exactly what flowers you’re ordering. You know exactly what you’re doing,” Bailey explained. 

And since weddings usually take multiple months to plan, they provide more opportunities to build relationships with customers. 

“You’re planning these weddings, and you start to know the inside and outside of everyone’s family. Which is sometimes a weird thing. Sometimes you get certain weddings, certain events, and you do get a feeling like you’re proud to do the flowers for it,” she said.

Those relationships can develop into a healthy bond between florist and customer. 

“What’s interesting for us is we do the wedding, and then we do the baby shower,” Molly said. 

Those customers keep coming back. In fact, a couple walked in and were met with warm embraces from the florist as she raced through her responsibilities. 

Right now, though, Molly and Bailey’s concentration is on their conditioning.
Once they finish, the flowers will be moved into the cooler. They will stay in their protective boxes until Monday. Then the florists will transform their garden of various blossoms into customized creations prepared for delivery across Hudson and its surrounding cities.  

They will coax the flowers from across the globe into vessels and send them home with customers. There they will become the centerpiece of gifts and tokens of admiration between loved ones for the romantic holiday. 

While they work, Bailey will bring her rescue dog, a blind shepherd mix, in to keep them company. And it is a lot of hard work, but it is done with love.

“We have a lot of fun. We tease each other terribly all day long,” Molly said. 

And once this is complete, it is on to the next holiday.

Molly Taylor and Co. is located at 46 Ravenna St. in Hudson, Ohio. The phone is 330-653-3635. Find the website at