Sean Knibb and Stella Shirinda are carving out an unexpecting niche in Venice Beach, California. Their shop, the Flowerboy Project, is part flower vendor, part studio, part coffee shop, and all community.
Flowerboy doesn’t just provide a space for the well-caffeinated to create their own floral arrangements. Instead, the hybrid space serves as a space for all elements of Venice Beach society-from weathered old locals to young ad execs-to mingle and connect.
CONVICTS caught up with Sean and Stella to get their word on the changing nature of Venice Beach, the Knibb family’s floral roots, and why spaces for conversation are crucial for a neighborhood.
Tell us about the daily rhythm at Flowerboy?
Well, I usually try to be down here by five in the morning. We take a look at what’s good and try to curate a look for the day. People put together their own arrangements, so we try to make that easy, choose colors that work together and whatever looks a little different.
How did Flowerboy come to be?
We’re on Lincoln Boulevard and the space came organically. Next door, there was an old bodega that’d been here for about thirty-five years. We didn’t realize that they were at the end of their run, they asked if I wanted to take it over. At first the idea was to see if we could have a cool coffee shop next door in the bodega. At that point, though, a coffee shop was not dynamic for me to run or own, so I took a step back and wondered what a shop or a creative space built around the idea of coffee and hanging out would be?
How did you settle on Flowerboy?
My grandmother was a well known florist. She had a store for years called Knibbs Flowers and showed in Chelsea, won some awards for dried flower arrangements. So I thought, ‘Well, let’s start with flowers and coffee.’ That’s the beginning of the Flowerboy idea and simplicity, casualness, happenstance all play into the whole vibe.
What makes flowers from Flowerboy different than your average rose?
Sometimes flowers are off-putting. They’re intimidating. The idea is to break that barrier down. Man, no one ever got a bouquet of flowers and said ‘These aren’t pretty, no thanks.’ Just hey, relax and let it flow.
Talk about the space.
Well the space is very much about bringing nature in and having it here on Lincoln. Stella was saying Lincoln probably would be considered the most unattractive streets in LA, and now on Lincoln is not like that at all. It’s a high density, heavily trafficked street so the idea was to have a cool coffee and flower shop that’s a full on oasis from whats going on outside. You can make some flowers and buy stuff, you can have a coffee, you can have a chat, you can see other heads in town that are traveling through. The vibe is like a studio.
Talk a bit about the eclectic assortment of stuff you have in here?
The only thing that’s a little bit of a rule is that everything that we get isn’t from around here. Not on Abbot Kinney or in a neighborhood store, preferably not in LA, ideally not even in America.
How did you get all of it here?
We pull from a lot of places. Some of this stuff we literally pushed thru LAX ourselves with our kid on top of a bunch of boxes. Some of the stuff we find online, some of it we make. The main thing for us is that it’s something that we enjoy or like or want to bring forward. The other thing is to put things forward that have not necessarily been put forward into the mainstream. I love getting it all. I don’t mind schlepping it across town or across the world. It’s also a good representation of the world and how we see it: high and low, rich and poor, all kind of co-mingled in this space.
How else does that idea, the mash-up of people and ideas play out with Flowerboy?
On the day to day, the bum that lives on the corner will come in to buy an orange soda while a top creative head grabs a coffee. There are more and more places like this, but it’s good to have this kind of place in a town like Venice that’s changing and trying to find a new footing. Venice has gone from a place that was uber experimental to a place that’s finding this whole commerce vibe. To have a spot that represents the area, and the people coming in and leaving is a good testament to the entire crew.
Is that the driving philosophy of Flowerboy, or does it have another layer?
The idea is that everyone has a dream. Everyone wants to be a part of something. In the old days you were like ‘I’m an architect, I’m a designer, I’m a photographer, I’m gonna be a lawyer. Today, the beauty of what’s happened with the way we live and how we interact socially, is that you have individuals who dream of being a photographer, an artist, and a lawyer too, thengo for all three of those things. When they come into Flowerboy, they see that there is no ceiling.
To some people, flowers and coffee sound like odd bedfellows. So lastly, can you just confirm that coffee and flowers pair well together?
Why not!? There aren’t a lot of places you can go and get creative and feel like you made something for somebody. The main thing is the idea that you can grab and go. In Europe, New York, Paris some of those bigger older cities you grab a bouquet of flowers and go. For some reason it hasn’t quite caught on here, but nature should be a part of your life especially when you’re living in a condensing urban environment. So why not be able to grab flowers and grab coffee? This guy came in this morning and got his coffee and it he took him a long time to pick this one flower for this one girl. It’s there right there! Grab it, give it to someone, take it home, it’s two bucks! All week!
Thanks, guys. Best of luck with everything at Flowerboy.