Brandi Taylor, who owns Serenity Bloom, one of the city’s few Black-owned flower shops, says she’s practiced floral arrangements as a hobby for years.
“I have a friend in Atlanta, Georgia who started her flower business maybe four years ago, and she kept telling me, ‘You should try it, you already know how to do flower arrangements,’” says Taylor.
She didn’t take her friend up on the offer at first, but some time in early 2021, Taylor says she went to see a woman who did Tarot readings, and she asked her what she was supposed to be doing in her career path. The woman told her she would be doing something creative that involved using her hands very soon, but Taylor dismissed the message.
Flash forward to November 2021, and Serenity Bloom had become an LLC.
Taylor was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Hazelwood until she moved to Atlanta in 1998 as a junior in high school. She stayed in the south, studying early childhood education at UNC Charlotte for a few years, before relocating back to Pittsburgh in 2008 to study organizational leadership at CCAC.
Taylor says that while people may be familiar with services like 1-800-Flowers, which does on-demand flower delivery from shops around the U.S., she wasn’t interested in partnering with them because she wanted to maintain creative control.
“I'll never just have a bouquet rose just laying around,” she says. “And if you want something simple, I probably can turn it around in 24 hours. If you want something with specialty flowers, it will probably take a couple of days.”
She likes colors you rarely find, like peach or lilac. Specialty flowers are her favorites, and while she says she’s not particularly drawn to roses, if she does have them, they won’t be the traditional long-stem reds or white ones.
“So my favorite is greenery,” she adds. “I will usually use some form of eucalyptus like silver dollar, baby blues, just all kinds of eucalyptus and greenery. I would say one of my favorites would be Aspidistra, which is almost a teal color. I also use a ton of leatherleaf because it's a great filler.”
Aspidistra are commonly referred to as “Cast Iron Plant” because of their hardiness, as they are able to survive in low light or poor soil conditions. Leatherleaf is true to its name; with a waxy looking coating on the green leaves, they do resemble leather.
“I want to be able to get the flowers that I absolutely love that you rarely see here, even down to the roses,” she says. “There is a quality of roses that the wholesaler doesn't have on hand here.”
In addition to Serenity Bloom, Taylor also runs Solace Consulting, a Pittsburgh-based firm that specializes in restorative practice training, consultation, and programming, all trauma and adversity informed. At Solace Consulting, Taylor works in parent organizing, youth and education advocacy, and legislative policy to mental health awareness. She also serves as the Director of Operations at Greenwood Plan and Emerald City.
Taylor runs Serenity Bloom as a one-woman operation, with an office in Emerald City, and fulfills orders out of her floral shop in McKees Rocks, where she takes orders by phone or email, without a storefront.
Since starting her flower arrangement business in 2021, Taylor says the most difficult time she’s had was Valentine’s Day when she got many last minute requests for flowers and bouquets that she, as the sole employee at Serenity Bloom, almost couldn’t accommodate.
While there are other Black florists in Pittsburgh, Taylor is one of the newer shops on the scene serving, as she calls it, “Floral Couture.”
“I think I may be one of a few Black florists in Pittsburgh,” says Taylor. “I'm just hoping that a lot of people start to recognize that and want something different because that's what I want to be known for, not your typical rose arrangement or bouquet.”