Flower Girl

Mandy Majerik

Mandy Majerik propels her third-generation floral business to national acclaim.

Written and photographed by Kelli Hewett Taylor

Floral designer Mandy Majerik, owner of HotHouse Design Studio in Birmingham’s Lakeview district, has become a Southern-fried rock star in the national and international floral industry.

When Majerik, 31, speaks at national conferences and flower shows at least a dozen times a year, attendees clamor to have their photos taken with her. She has become a go-to expert for using social media in small business.

She is nationally known for her HotHouse blog, www.hothousedesignstudio.blogspot.com, and her extensive guest blogging. And her work has been featured in publications around the world for her innovative, trend-setting floral designs.

In October, Majerik also became the first Design Star winner and new video spokeswoman for Mayesh of Los Angeles, one of America’s leading wholesale florists and a favorite among nationally known event designers.

As a third-generation florist, Majerik is finding success as a downtown Birmingham businesswoman in an industry re-inventing itself in the 21st century. Today’s floral industry courts a new group of customers who aren’t conditioned to buy the funeral sprays and traditional bouquets of yesteryear but are looking for fashion-forward floral art.

“I like taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary,” Majerik says. “I’m always looking to other industries, whether it’s fashion or furniture. It pushes me to always be alert to where our industry is and where it should be going. What is hot? What is trendy? What is going to be the next big thing? It’s hard to put it into words, it’s just what I do. I just say, “Expect the unexpected from me.’”

Majerik’s style is brimming with unpredictable combinations, masculine and feminine, architectural and natural. She incorporates everything from specialty orchids and roses to okra, cabbage and cotton. For a wedding at Vulcan Park, Majerik took flattened pennies from the park’s souvenir machine and used them in the groom’s boutonniere. “I love being inspired by things,” Majerik said. “It’s about being aware of your surroundings and resources.”

Majerik first drew her first inspiration from her grandmother, or “MaMaw,” Tommie Miles, who founded Bell Florist in Forestdale. “The first location was in an old building and there was no restroom in it,” Majerik recounts. “There was a Bell Funeral Home across the street, and that’s where we would go.”

After school at Crumly Chapel Elementary, little Mandy would do chores and earn extra money picking up cuttings and helping deliver arrangements and sprays across the street to the funeral home. “It was my playground,” Majerik said. “I would lie in the big flower boxes under the work table and take naps.”

Majerik saw firsthand the kind of work ethic it took to make a small business successful. “If someone died on Christmas Eve, MaMaw would have to leave for a couple of hours,” she says. “People think of it as just flowers, but when someone died, had a baby or got married, it was the highest emotion in their lives, and they’d let you know ‘I need you now.’ And my grandmother had a passion for it and it was always about the people — not just a single flower.”

In 1995, MaMaw Miles became sick and eventually lost her battle with cancer when Mandy was about 15. That left a vibrant business with no one in charge. That’s when MaMaw’s daughter and Mandy’s mother, Frances, took over. “My mom was the business person, she was sentimental about the business,” Majerik says. “She remembered all the hard work that went into that, and she wanted to carry that successful business forward.”

All through high school, Majerik helped out in the shop, which her mom had moved to nearby Graysville in the late 1990s and expanded to include home décor. Frances Majerik became more involved in the floral industry professional organizations, too. But the bread and butter was still funeral work and more traditional everyday offerings like Valentine’s Day roses. Majerik remembers spending most Valentine’s Days not in school but working to help with the holiday rush.

When it came time for college, Majerik enrolled at Auburn University with every intention of becoming a pharmacist. “If I had become one, I wouldn’t have the best-looking pharmacy in town,” Majerik deadpans. “My passion then was not necessarily for flowers, but it was always something creative. I was smart enough to have succeeded at it, but I didn’t want to count pills every day.”

She wound up transferring to Montevallo University and graduating magna cum laude in interior design, with a business minor.

A few years later, the Majerik family convened for a family round-table discussion about the future of the family flower shop, and Majerik took over in 2006. “I knew I wanted to be a little more progressive,” she says. “By going to the floral conventions, I had seen what they were doing in California and other places. I loved seeing what the potential was for this industry. I realized it was changing from what I remembered carrying funeral sprays. I knew if I wanted to be successful I had to change directions. If it failed, it wasn’t going to be my mother’s fault, it would be me. She had done her job. She had given me something in my family, my heritage.”

Majerik’s first two major decisions were to break family traditions. She moved the business to Lakeview near downtown Birmingham to attract more clients. Then she changed the name to HotHouse Design Studio to reflect a shift to floral, interior and event design with modern floral design at the foundation of it all. Majerik wasn’t about coffee mug gifts with helium balloon bouquets or a cooler with red roses on standby.

“People don’t do those things as much anymore, and a lot of them skip those whole traditions now,” Majerik says. Every order at HotHouse is custom-made, and the shop doors are open by appointment. Majerik has kept some of the family’s previous corporate clients, but the new customer base is all Majerik’s. And her family couldn’t be prouder of her success. Her mom is still a key team member.

Among Majerik’s many awards, she became the youngest winner of the Alabama State Florists Association Designer of the Year award. In 2011, she won Florist of the Year. She is active in the American Institute of Floral Designers and World Flower Council and is Alabama’s first member of Professional Floral Communicators—International. She’s been on Rose Bowl Parade flower teams and won a slew of independent floral competitions. She has been featured in Belgian and Russian floral magazines.

Majerik has caused so much buzz that the Society of American Florists even recruited her to help them understand how, when and why younger shoppers buy flowers. Majerik, who has about 4,000 Facebook friends, was a perfect choice to help them understand that younger buyers would rather have a single stem of something unusual than a mixed spring bouquet their parents would prefer.

As Majerik’s fame grows, she has no plans to leave downtown Birmingham. “I’m proud of being in the city, of where I am,” she says. “I think my location has been a big part of my growth. Being right in the heart of everything in the business and corporate world has been positive for me. I’ve built the clientele I wanted to attract. Nationally, when I travel, I’m proud of being from Birmingham. I love it, and it’s always going to be home. ”

Tags: , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Flower Girl”

  1. Thanks so much for showcasing so many gorgeous photos of Mandy’s work! They layout is always great, but especially fantastic this month.

Leave a Reply