Jo Mcphee-Clarke - The Flower Shop Bruton
Photo by Ben Taylor

Jo McPhee-Clarke - The Flower Shop Bruton

Interview by Phil Simpson on 31st July 2013 | Photographs by Ben Taylor

Situated in the heart of Bruton's High Street it's hard not to notice the picturesque flower shop with its chic window displays and contemporary green signs. Localeyez meets up with Jo McPhee-Clarke, creator and owner of The Flower Shop Bruton to find out about her background, motivation, love for heart-shaped merchandise and what really goes on in the heart of Bruton.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Frome, but because my dad was a Squadron Leader in the RAF we moved around a lot, and spent time overseas. When I was abroad I would come back to Somerset during the summer holidays and stay with my grandparents. I was educated at Bruton School for Girls.

Describe your path to becoming a florist.
I think the original spark came from my grandfather who was an avid gardener. We used to spend a lot of time with my grandparents when I was young. From that point on I wanted to become a florist and work with flowers. After I left school I did all sorts of admin jobs, and then we moved to Canada because my father was posted there with the RAF. I worked as a nanny and at the passport office for the British High Commission. However, my passion for flowers was always there and I used to do flower arranging for people on the side.

And what moved you to open your own shop?
I worked with the in-house florist at Brympton d’Evercy just outside Yeovil. One of the ladies with whom I was working, heard that Cynth (the lady who ran the flower shop in Bruton) was thinking of selling her shop. She suggested that I get in touch with her. I kept putting it off, but my co-worker continued to badger me until I finally gave in and contacted Cynth. I ended up working with her for a few months before deciding to take over.

You moved from the back of The Bruton Convenience Store to your current location on High Street. How did that all go?
Rachel the hairdresser popped into the old shop one day. I lamented that I would dearly love to have my shop out on the high street. She mentioned that she was thinking about selling the Hat Shop, and asked whether I would be interested in having it as The Flower Shop Bruton. This all happened in October 2011. The whole move took two months to complete, and was quite hard work, but well worth it, and the best decision I have ever made!

You can never have enough love in your life! I love being surrounded by beautiful things and people. I suppose these heart-shaped products and all the flowers represent that in some way.
Photographed by Ben Taylor

What do you love about your shop?
In the old shop at the back of The Bruton Convenience Store there was no natural light and almost no passing trade. Although I loved having my own shop, the location was quite depressing. In that respect alone the new place is a complete revelation, and the shop’s natural light, wooden floors and rustic charm provides a perfect backdrop for all these beautiful flowers and gifts. Now each time I walk in through the front door it makes me smile. I love it!

If there was one piece of advice you could give someone who was opening their first shop what would it be?
OK, this might sound like a cheesy cliche, but just don’t give up, be determined, and always follow your dreams. If you want something badly enough try and make it happen.

Who or what inspires you in life?
My parents have been the biggest inspiration in my life, and I aspire to be like them (as I grow older. They’ve supported me through everything, and if it wasn’t for my mum especially in this project, I wouldn’t be here today She’s been behind me from the beginning and now works alongside me. She has really helped the Flower Shop Bruton to happen. I’ve never ceased to be amazed by my parents’ patience and generosity. I am very lucky.

My husband and children have also been incredibly supportive and inspirational. Despite my husband working a full time job himself he is never too busy to lend a hand. They have been behind me from the beginning of my adventure. They have helped me so much with the shop and I couldn’t have done it without their patience, love and support, for that I thank them, hugely!

Professionally, I’ve always been inspired by Sarah Raven and Carol Klein from Gardener’s World. And, although they work quite differently, I like the fact that they are both really passionate about what they do. I love Sarah Raven’s innovative and unique approach to gardening and flower arranging and Carol Klein’s down-to-earth, hands-on cottage garden style enthusiasm.

Tell us some secrets about Bruton, Jo?
Tell us some secrets about Bruton, Jo? (photographed by Ben Taylor)
Jo McPhee-Clarke of the Flower Shop Bruton poses at the counter
Blooming marvellous flowers. (photographed by Ben Taylor)

You’ve got alot of heart-shaped merchandise in your shop. Are you feeling the love?
You can never have enough love in your life! I love being surrounded by beautiful things and people. I suppose these heart-shaped products and all the flowers represent that in some way. Also, I have to say, they seem to sell really well, so others must be feeling the love too!

What aspirations do you have for yourself and the Flower Shop Bruton?
I don’t really have any bold expansion plans for the shop at the moment, but I do aspire to provide the best flower service that I can. As long as I’m happy getting up in the morning and running my shop, that’s enough for me.

You seem to have a fine view out of your shop window onto the high street. Tell us some secrets about Bruton.
I couldn’t possibly divulge the sort of things I’ve witnessed without causing local uproar [she laughs]. However, I have noticed that people are generally pretty crap at parking! Sometimes it’s a bit like sitting in a Parisian cafe and watching the world go by. That’s something I didn’t have before the move. Having this portal out onto the high street also puts me in closer touch with the local community, and has certainly increased my passing trade. It also means I’m open to public view, and I have to be careful what I get up to! So it’s a two-way thing.

What makes a great bunch of flowers?
I pay a lot of attention to colour and texture, and try not to add too much greenery, as it is really about the flowers. I like to create a bouquet that looks like it’s just been picked from a country cottage garden, but also try to cater for a wide variety of tastes and floral requirements.

Jo gets down to some good 'ol fashioned flower arranging.
Jo gets down to some good old fashioned flower arranging. ( Ben Taylor)
Jo McPhee-Clarke of the Flower Shop Bruton poses at the counter
The window of love. ( Ben Taylor)

What’s your most treasured possession?
Probably my wedding ring. It was originally my grandmother’s, and was handed down to my mother, who then passed it on to me when I got married. It’s very special to me. What is the most important lesson life has taught you? No matter what, always be there for your friends and family. Don’t give up on them and they wont give up on you.
No matter what, always be there for your friends and family.

What makes you really happy?
It’s the simple things really. Spending time with friends and family, going to the beach, relaxing at home, sitting in the sun, laughing and joking with my friends, lots of things really. And also the fact that my dream to have my own shop came true and I’m living that dream!

Is there anything you would change in your life?
I do wish that my Grandparents were still alive today to see what I have achieved and to meet my family. They would have loved my children so much and been incredibly proud of me opening my shop and living my dream. It does make me sad that they didn’t get to see any of this. I loved them so much and miss this every day.

If you were flower which one would you be?
My husband would say a rose because he thinks I smell nice but can sometimes be a bit prickly! [laughs]. My favourite flower is a freesia although I'm not sure I'm like one. I think it's something that someone else would have to match you too. If I had to say one flower, then maybe a gerbera...what you see is what you get!