In Full Bloom
You know J. Kinney is different even before you enter her Monroe Street store. The springy green exterior, various potted plants splayed out on the sidewalk and her wooden-slat screen door are all clues that her cozy, cottage-style shop is special, set apart from big-box mega-stores.
Once you’re inside it’s a feast for the senses: fragrant blooms, bright, eye-catching handbags, tablecloths and home goods—even her nineteen-year-old petite cat, Iris, allows a stroke or two of her soft fur as she meanders through the shop.
“I’ve always had a cat in my store,” says owner Jane Kinney.
Kinney, who’s originally from Wisconsin, has actually owned more than one store—she got her retail start in the ’70s in San Francisco when she opened Jane’s Plants.
“At that time there were a million entrepreneurs starting businesses. If you had an idea, you started a business,” says Kinney.
Having studied horticulture in San Francisco, she returned to Madison and decided to open another store in 1983 with the concept of a European flower market—selling flowers by the stem.
Kinney first carried exotics and has since shifted to garden-style, locally-grown flowers—stems that are sustainably grown within twenty-five miles of Madison “instead of on some plantation in South America,” she says.
Of course Kinney carries more than just local flowers—she carries locally made goods (like a handbag collection made down the street) as well as other pieces made within the U.S. A few fair-trade items are from far-flung reaches like Ecuador. But she’s careful to distinguish that she does thorough research on every company she carries—looking into the working conditions, talking to the owners at trade shows and following back up with companies she’s interested in by researching and interviewing them.
Observes Kinney, “As people become more interested in buying local, we’re really able to be more up-front about these companies.”
Shayna Miller is associate and style editor of Madison Magazine.