Alameda Business Buzz: Dandelion Flowers and Gifts Shop

Alameda Business Buzz: Dandelion Flowers and Gifts Shop

Janice Worthen
Dandelion Flower Shop

Karim Preuss, owner of Dandelion Flowers and Gifts Shop, in her Park Street Plaza boutique. Photo courtesy of Karim Preuss.

Wander down the cozy hall of Park Street Plaza, and you’ll find a charming shop that Park Street Business Association has named its 2014 Retailer of the Year.

Dandelion Flowers and Gifts Shop evolved from owner Karim Preuss’ little flower stand near Lauren’s Closet to a partnership named Poppy Red, which was located at 1428 Park Street. A little over a year ago, Preuss became the sole owner of the shop. She moved it into Park Street Plaza and gave it a new name to go with its new location. It didn’t take her long to win the hearts of Alamedans with her elegant bouquets and happy demeanor.

Preuss, who is a mother of three, runs the business by herself with friends stepping in now and then to help with her children or watch the shop. Even though she is very busy these days, joy is evident in her voice and in her work.

Preuss said she started her business to make her children happy and to show them that mothers can do the great things they imagine. When Preuss ran her flower stand, the flowers came from her little garden, and she sold them in $5 bouquets.

Preuss said she felt fortunate to have a beautiful garden since she considered flowers a luxury while she was a stay-at-home mom. For a while, she just made bouquets for her friends, and then she decided flowers should be affordable for everyone, and she could provide that with her flower stand.

“We all deserve flowers,” she said.

Though the stand has been replaced by a chic, sophisticated boutique, Preuss is still dedicated to offering customers a selection of affordable flowers and gifts. Near the entrance to her store is a basket of her famous $5 bouquets, which Preuss said she will always carry. She can also do large and grand, however, as her “Great Expectations” signature bouquet shows.

Whether big or small, each bouquet and arrangement Preuss makes is unique, with combinations that surprise and delight the senses. Preuss said her background is as a gardener and that she’s still a gardener at heart, so she often puts things together because she likes the effect and not because of what’s standard.

The look of her bouquets and arrangements changes as the year progresses because she uses seasonal, local flowers. She said about 90 percent of her flowers are grown on farms in Petaluma and Half Moon Bay. They are cut the day before she picks them up.

Preuss also offers a selection of unique gifts that includes everything from sweets to scarves, and most of them come from local vendors or are made in America. Her shop was one of the first to sell Type.Lites Candles, which consist of soy wax that is hand-poured and finished with a wood wick; the packaging is done by hand. Preuss said she chooses gifts for the store that she loves and that she hopes customers will love them too.

Though business is strong, Preuss said she doesn’t want to become too commercial. She said she offers a flower boutique, and she wants art, heart, and things made with love to exist within her shop. This might mean that she occasionally sells out of bouquets or has to stop taking orders for arrangements for a short time, but she said she wants to make sure her shop’s growth matches its quality.

Preuss makes an effort to get to know her customers. She said that when she speaks to people and sees how important her flowers are to them, she can’t help but put her heart into her work. She wants to make sure she holds on to what brought her to the business in the first place; she wants to sell flowers and gifts that were put together with love for people who love them in return.

If you want to get to know this magical shop a little better, Dandelion is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Dandelion also participates frequently in Alameda’s 2nd Friday Art Walk by providing music, refreshments, and space for local vendors to sell their wares.

Starting in March, Mama Makers, a group of four female artisans, will return to sell their various creations at Dandelion for the art walk. Preuss said about 300 people visited her shop the last time Mama Makers were there.

Preuss will also have a special selection of bouquets and arrangements for Valentine’s Day that will feature the color red but won’t just be the traditional set of roses. Preuss said not everyone likes roses and many want a larger variety, which she’ll have while supplies last.

1419 Park Street; 388-2215.

AROUND TOWN

Park Street and Beyond: Last January, Denise Shelton gave a glowing review of Lola’s Chicken Shack right here on The Alamedan, and this month the Park Street Business Association named Lola’s and American Oak as the association’s Culinary Businesses of the Year. Lola’s Chicken Shack, 1417 Park Street; 521-4488. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. American Oak, 2319 Santa Clara Avenue; 521-5862. Open 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

For those of you who have resolved to learn the guitar this year but don’t know how you’ll squeeze lessons into your schedule, Tomas Michaud, founder of Starland School of Music, is strengthening his web presence with tutorial sets that can enhance one’s musical knowledge.

Michaud said he’s constantly reworking his online content to better resemble his “Starland Guitar System,” an organized, step-by-step curriculum that allows the learner to progress in order from a beginner to an experienced guitarist. Michaud said he already has about 400 tutorials at www.tomasmichaud.com. Learners can access many of these for free, or they can purchase access for $97 to a more comprehensive, 172-video set that provides 99 lessons.

Michaud said the key to his system’s success is that it provides students with an organized framework for learning. He said many people start off playing with a bang but might have teachers who aren’t organized. The process can start to feel chaotic, and this can lead the student to give up.

Michaud said his first love was not music but chemistry. However, when he realized he’d have to work in the oil industry or something similar once he grew up if he chose to pursue it, and he decided he wanted to do something more to contribute.

Michaud remembers his teenage self listening to music in his room and enjoying how it made him feel whole and connected to something bigger. Then he realized he wanted to help other people experience that, and he could do it through teaching and playing music.

In addition to teaching, Michaud has released six albums, and he’s working on another.

Starland offers lessons for a variety of instruments, and Michaud said his school has about 22 instructors who have passed a rigorous screening process.

If you’d like to learn more about taking lessons at Starland, you can visit the school’s website or call for a consultation.

1631 Park Street; 523-4797.

This year marks Eric Nelson’s fifth anniversary as owner of Rocket Reuse, which carries a large selection of used books and comics, vintage clothing, DVDs, CDs, vinyl and even VHS. Nelson took over Rocket Reuse in 2010, but he was a manager of the store since 2007, when it was known as Blue Rectangle. Over the years, he’s worked to expand and reduce sections based on customer demand.

“We have a relatively small space, and I try to fine-tune the merchandise that people sell to us so only the best of the best makes it out on the shelves,” he said.

Nelson said the store is a “labor of love”; he works about 70 hours a week. He also has a son and was expecting a baby daughter any day when we last spoke. He said he loves that Alameda is “community-oriented,” and that it’s a great place to have a business.

“I love it when our regular customers come in, and we can catch up on how they are doing,” Nelson said. “It really makes me feel like I’m putting all this work in for something.”

Nelson also likes seeing new customers’ reaction to the store.

“We definitely get a lot of people who are out for a night on the town, and it’s so fulfilling to experience them discovering the store and really enjoying themselves in it, whether they are struck with nostalgia by the old TV in the window display, stumbling upon a treasure … or just having fun dancing to the music,” Nelson said.

1355 Park Street; 337-0750. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Alameda South Shore Center: Dress Barn has closed.

West Alameda: The city council approved a lease with Wrightspeed Inc., which makes emission-reducing electric Powertrain engines, for a term of seven years with two five-year options as well as the opportunity to purchase Building 41 on Alameda Point. Wrightspeed founder Ian Wright, who also co-founded Tesla, told the City Council that his company plans to hire 350 employees by 2018 and spend as much as $4 million renovating Building 41.

Wright outlined his reasons for choosing Alameda for the council. He said he loves Alameda and believes his employees will also. Wrightspeed currently has 23 employees and is located in San Jose, an area that Wright said some of his employees would call “soul sucking.” Wright said Alameda’s proximity to San Francisco and University of California Berkeley would make it easier for the company to attract recruits. Wright said he also wants to preserve the historic Building 41, which provides both the height and space Wrightspeed needs to install clean engines in large trucks. Finally, Wright said everyone in Alameda has been great to work with so far.

Safeway and Sleep Train are now open at Alameda Landing. Safeway, 501 Willie Stargell; 523-1804. Open 24 hours. Sleep Train, 2660 5th St. #20; 337-9942. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Wilmot’s Books, which has been offering Alamedans affordable used books since 2005, when the store was opened by Tim and Mary Wilmot. Tim Wilmot said the most memorable parts of their book business so far are the people they’ve been able to get to know over the years and the different estates they’ve been able to purchase to enhance the store’s inventory.

Wilmot said technological development and trends have affected his store in ways he didn’t expect when the doors first opened. Wilmot’s has been strengthening its online presence as this form of shopping continues to be popular; customers can purchase their books on Alibris, Amazon, and eBay. But Wilmot said the rise of eBooks and eBook readers has also changed the types of books his store sells.

“Originally we used to sell a lot of popular fiction, but Kindle is often used for that,” Wilmot said. “We still sell fiction, but our focus has changed to things that people either can’t get on eBooks or would rather have the real thing, such as unique, hard-to-find non-fiction titles.”

Though customers’ tastes tend to shift, Wilmot said some sections of his store remain more popular than others. Nautical and sailing books, California history, Eastern religion, and children’s books all do well, he said.

Wilmot’s Books also buys books back, and this is Wilmot’s favorite part of the business. He said he likes to find new things that will enhance the store’s inventory.

“One thing that makes Alameda special is that people like to stay local so it helps the bookstore,” Wilmot said. “And since it has a small-town feel, it’s easy to get to know customers and what they are looking for.”

478 Central Avenue; 865-1443. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Comments

Submitted by L Engh (not verified) on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

Congratulations, Karim, on receiving the 2014 Park Street Retailer of the Year Award. I have been buying flowers from Karim since she began with her $5 bouquets on a table outside Lauren's Closet. She has consistently provided beautiful bouquets of local, fresh, not your ordinary flowers and exceptional customer service. It's worth the few steps to find Dandelion and Karim in Park Plaza.