Creatives Collective | AmpersandSF - floral oasis

Nestled in the Mission District of San Francisco is a treasure find that has been taking over all your friends’ Instagram feeds.

Ampersand’s low key location makes you feel like you’ve found a hidden secret and you can’t help but share with everyone you know because their arrangements are not only fresh but beautifully hand-crafted by Benjamin and Emerson, the lovely and engaged owners of Ampersand. We spent an afternoon with Emerson (Ben was out on deliveries!), probing their creative minds about their beginnings, their daily inspirations, and hopes for the future.

What was your inspiration for starting Ampersand?
We wanted to open a shop together and we weren’t quite sure what we quite wanted to do at first. We both realized we loved flowers and it was instantaneous. It came from wanting to be self employed, call our own shots, and let our creative juices flow in whatever directions. We also wanted to work together and have a small shop within this community in a big city.

What are the day to day operations like at Ampersand?
We wake up pretty early and go to local growers to find specific flowers and stems for that day. The flowers we choose basically curate the look of the shop each day. Ben either goes with me or preps the shop for the day, cleaning, changing buckets, etc. We also get a lot of extra help in friends of ours, like Anna, who has a design background.
Weddings take a few days of literal work. Three days from start to finish for flowers alone and then emails and consultations could be weeks or months in advance.

What is it like working together as a couple?
There are definitely difficulties when working together because it opens up a whole new complications. Ben is better at things that I’m not and vice versa so we balance each other out really well. I think it’s a blessing because you are able to figure out your partner in different intimate levels. We welcome the challenge!

courtesy of Ashley Batz

What inspires you both daily?
Botany is an ongoing journey and we’re lifelong learners. I love learning new flowers and challenging myself to remember all the names. We’re completely self-taught after a semester of formal classes which lends us to a more organic style.
I’m inspired on the daily to challenge myself creatively and push what floral design is and that’s what inspires me to create new products. Ben really enjoys expanding the business and the numbers so he’s more so the business side of the shop.

What do you think has been the most important to your success so far?
Staying authentic to our initial vision which was being a community orientated business, affordable, and approachable to all members of our community. We really love people and connecting people to flowers. Especially in the beginning when it was scary, like thinking “Are we going to make it, charging less than other vendors?”, but we felt it was very imperative to be affordable and allow people to have an experience here.

What makes floral arrangements important for events?
I think it’s one of the things that really makes an event complete, visually, and it’s what you look back at when you look at the photos. You look back at the people of course, but the flowers are an extension of people and who they are. Whether you have a clean, simple, and minimalistic style or full, vivacious, and wild style, you can represent yourselves through the floral arrangement. Especially at a wedding where the event is an entire design aesthetic about you. Flowers are very personal thing and experience for each person.


Why did you decide to open Ampersand in San Francisco?
I think we once we lived here we just decided we wanted to build our business here because we understood our community and knew we could fill a niche. We knew we needed to be here and I think we’ll be here at least another five to ten years. I think I’m more of a travel bug, I like to explore and experience different cities and I’d really love to visit cities like Portland and New York, but for now San Francisco is our home.
Describe what your community means to you.
Our community means everything to us. We live just around the corner so we are members in every way. I’m so appreciative of how the community responds to small business, it’s incredible. The Mission District especially loves small creative business and supports them not out of convenience or price but out of making a sustaining a local business. Without the community we wouldn’t be here.

Who is your support system?
We rely upon a lot of certain members of our family. Ben’s dad figured out electrical stuff, my dad was a small business owner and helped with figuring out foundational business culture. My sister and Ben’s brother were really important in setting up the physical store so we had a lot of strong family support.


What is your love story?
I moved here from Santa Barbara after being an accountant. I was in the process of finding myself and I guess I found Ben! We met at a club through a mutual friend and just kept seeing each other because of that friend. Ben asked me out on a date and we went for martinis and we’ve been together ever since!

You two are engaged, congrats! What are your planning for your own wedding?
Benjamin proposed in June last year and then we opened the shop in August, so we haven’t really begun to plan. We do have a few ideas, like maybe renting out an old inn and have all our family be able to stay in the same place. We’ll probably have it in the San Francisco area because this is our home.

We have barely thought that far because, realistically, we’re too busy with the shop. It’s a whole another “YIKES”.


What are your favorite flowers right now?
Right now I love vernaculus flowers, and straw flowers are in season. Ben really likes purple flowers, literally any purple flower. If I make a purple floral arrangement, he thinks it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever created.

What is your favorite tool in the shop?
A lamp, it’s just a basic hardware store lamp but it’s the brightest one in the shop which is perfect for working on flowers arrangements.


What do you see for Ampersand 5 years from now?
It would be nice to have self sustaining and healthy business where we can have employees and have days off together and a personal life. Because we’re still young, we’re not sure about opening a second location as much as developing our current space.

What is your inspirational advice for other self starters?
Have a clear vision of what you want your business to be -  write it down and try to stick to it. From a personal standpoint, we wrote what we wanted from dreams to aspirations, what people would feel, what the space feels like, and essentially those are just check marks. Also take chances, you can’t succeed and move forward if you don’t play the game.

Emerson and Ben were a pleasure to talk to and their space will make you want to stay there all day! We left with a gorgeous bouquet that paired perfectly with our Felicity Hostess Box.
xo esselle

They are open everyday 11-7 and even hold events in the studio space!
Follow them on Instagram and visit the shop!

80 Albion Street, San Francisco, CA. 94103

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