Floral designer opens up studio in downtown Bellefonte

EMMA GOSALVEZ/THE EXPRESS Erin Carey arranges a flower bouquet in her boutique.

BELLEFONTE – Erin Carey is bringing her floral design expertise from the Big Apple to small town Bellefonte.

Carey, 32, is the owner of The Botany Box, where she specializes in weddings and parties and is willing to travel. Located at 221 W. High St., the custom design floral studio and boutique opened in May.

Floral design has been Carey’s passion since she was 20.

“I’ve had some really, really cool experiences with it and I worked with some really, really cool people and learned a lot and now I’m hoping to bring that to this area,” she said.

It all started when she worked part-time at a small, upscale market in Narragansett, R.I., during which time she was attending the University of Rhode Island to get her bachelor’s in women’s studies and philosophy.

“I discovered that working there just made me happier than just about anything else,” Carey said.

After graduating college in 2007, she decided she wanted a job working with and helping people, so she started working toward a master’s in couple and family therapy. But floral design was still calling her name, so she opened a business and started buying flowers wholesale in 2009.

During grad school, Carey started to do design for weddings. After she earned her master’s in 2012, she started to focus more on couple and family therapy for a while. She said she would work with children in the home, teach them coping skills and work on family conflict and communication.

But floral design still remained her true passion.

“I really missed the flowers, so I did something totally impractical and I totally quit my paying job, went to New York City, worked in Harlem, a totally unpaid internship, and learned a ton,” Carey said.

Through taking this big leap back in 2013, Carey got to work with some of the most masterful florists in the world, including world-renowned designer and teacher Ariella Chezar.

After her internship with L’Olivier Floral Atelier, Carey was hired by Cal Crary, the co-owner of the Flower School New York, to manage his Ariella New York shop. In time, Carey was working closely with Chezar herself as her business partner.

In the Big Apple, Carey worked on weddings and other events for a few years.

“It went further than I really could have dreamed of; we were doing parties for Mayor Bloomberg,” she said. “And Paul McCartney; it was one of the best days I ever had in my entire life. I couldn’t even sleep the night before and my boss came in and I was blasting The Beatles and was just totally elated.”

For Bloomberg, Carey completely designed the concept for his granddaughter’s first birthday party. For McCartney, she created a pink arrangement of anemones, arabicum and sweet peas as a “thank you” gift for a performance on Saturday Night Live.

During her time in the city, she helped design some over-the-top big weddings. For one particular wedding ceremony, held at the Central Park Zoo, she used Mosser Glass handmade glass for really whimsical arrangements with a really tall elephant ear. At the reception, Carey had used tons of mums, roses and petals to create a truly magical atmosphere.

Another wedding she planned involved hundreds of beeswax candles with furniture rentals covered in garden roses. In addition, there was a wall entirely covered by ferns.

On top of planning events in the city, Carey came back to her hometown of Lewisburg to do a pop-up shop called Fleur around Valentine’s Day for the past two years. The pop-up shop on Market Street was a hit, and she received a lot of orders for Valentine’s Day. At the shop, she sold vases similar to the ones in her Bellefonte studio, paper flowers and wooden valentines.

Carey chose to open up a boutique in Bellefonte when her boyfriend, who was teaching at Penn State Harrisburg got transferred to Penn State University Park.

Carey’s studio and boutique will specialize in weddings and events, including full wedding design, where Carey can help with linens and other decor. She will also have flowers on hand all the time in order to do gift arrangements. She said that sometimes a day’s notice is preferred, especially if the customer has something specific in mind.

The flowers, which are always very fresh, come from two local Amish farmers, Carey’s own garden, and she cuts the Russian Olive in the woods. She also has some paper flowers on hand, with plans to have a lot more in the future. Also available at the boutique are small gifts, such as cards with rosemary seeds and stationary.

Carey is very passionate about planning weddings and said her approach is garden-style but she can be flexible and do other styles, such as modern. She always uses lush, fresh flowers for the weddings she does.

“I don’t like to use just the standard-type roses,” Carey said. “I really try to find the prettiest flowers out of what’s in season.”

She said her favorite part about planning for weddings is searching for the flowers.

“It’s just really exciting; you come up with recipes and you’re putting in the order to California and then maybe even the best part is when you open up the boxes and just that absolute sheer excitement,” she said. “It’s definitely amazing to hear when people are happy with it; it just makes it all worth it.”

Another thing that sets The Botany Box apart is that Carey is willing to work with any budget and has inexpensive items available for rent to make the event even more affordable. These items include Musser Glass, silver compote and aged terra cotta pots and vases, which help make beautiful centerpieces, she said.

Carey detailed what customers can expect when they seek out her studio for wedding design.

The first step is to fill out a short questionnaire, she said, which goes over the wedding date, preferred colors, the vision, and how many are in the bridal party. Photos are especially helpful, even if the flowers in the photo are not exactly what her clients wants, as Carey can use it as a guide for color and texture.

Another important thing to have in mind is the budget, which Carey said will save a lot of time and give a clear vision of the scope of what they will do.

After gathering this information, Carey will meet with the clients, or if they are far away, she will do a phone chat with them. During this consultation, she said they will start from the beginning and go to the end, covering everything the clients want to see at their wedding.

Afterward, a visual proposal with line items will show clients how much everything is and how it breaks down. Carey said she can make edits up to two weeks before the event.

The Botany Box is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. through 5 p.m., and by appointment. Anyone interested in setting up an an appointment can contact Erin Carey at (814) 470-8428 or thebotanybox@gmail.com.