This is the next story in a series about the women entrepreneurs and business owners along Upshur Street in Petworth. Join us as we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th with a special community event free for the whole family.
It had been six days since the blockbuster opening of her flower shop, She Loves Me, and Holley Simmons was freaking out a little. The Upshur block felt sleepy that Friday under a coat of fresh snow, and Simmons had decided to let her employees stay home. Then, suddenly, the delivery and Valentines Day flower orders started pouring in.
Such is the life of a brand new store owner. And while Simmons has co-owned The Lemon Collective for the past three years, She Loves Me is her first brick and mortar retail operation.
“It’s a whole new set of challenges,” Simmons explained as she plucked stems of flowers from the shop’s DIY section, and arranged them into bouquets. “I’m juggling what I can do myself versus what to give to others. There’s payroll... taxes... you have to have a certain amount of naïveté to start a business.”
It seems if anyone can make a flower business work in the District, its Simmons. Her lush, fragrant shop looks like it jumped off the cover of Architectural Digest. She Loves Me was so mobbed on her opening day that it sold out of several items, and Brightest Young Things wrote a rave write-up of the shop a few days later.
Still, Simmons was facing the same age-old worries that have bedeviled business owners before her. Will she break even? Will she ever get to handle flowers again, or will she just be stuck in management mode? Why does she have to pay so much for trash removal?!?
As the second-newest lady on the Upshur block (behind Loyalty Books’ Hannah Oliver Depp), Simmons is learning how to say “No” - something women often struggle with.
“There’s a fear that you have to say yes to everything,” Simmons explained. “I want to make a good impression on the neighborhood.”
But sometimes, saying yes is the wrong choice. Case in point: the decision to agree to a same-day delivery, in the snow, while nobody was around to tend her store, something Simmons was clearly regretting as she wrapped a bouquet.
Simmons took a big gamble recently by saying “no” to her former business partner, Timber Pizza co-owner Andrew Dana. Originally, Dana had planned to co-invest in She Loves Me, but in the end, Simmons says, she decided she wanted to do the venture herself.
Dana didn’t take it personally, and he and Simmons still remain close friends and collaborators.
“His take was: ‘Before I was investing in you, and now you’re investing in you,’” Simmons says.
Barely a month after opening She Loves Me, Simmons doubled down on the Upshur block by opening her craft workshop venue, The Lemon Collective, next door. The creative space had been operating in Park View, but this winter Simmons saw an opening to take over the lease at 810 Upshur Street and jumped. Since opening on February 15th, The Lemon Collective has hosted a dozen workshops on everything from knitting to terrarium making, as well as a free art show displaying the creations of furloughed government workers. March’s workshop schedule is jam-packed and several classes are already sold out.
The Lemon Collective’s loyal following allows Simmons to take some risks with her newer venture, She Loves Me. And while opening a brick and mortar store — particularly one that sells perishable goods — is nerve-racking, Simmons is trying to keep it all in perspective.
“At the end of the day, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s just flowers,” she says.