FARMINGTON — Chocolates and flowers have long been a magic combination, and a new collaboration between a Farmington chocolatier and baker with a local florist on Main Street promises to be a heady match.
Last Monday, Pam West, owner of The Chocolate Shoppe, Etc., relocated her gourmet, handmade chocolates and homemade pastry business from Front Street around the corner to Richard's Florist at 149 Main St. in Farmington.
Even before West had a permanent sign and the only indication of her new venue was a simple window display, her presence had created a buzz downtown.
“You could see people walk by and do a double take and then come back to find out what was going on,” West said with a laugh. “People have been buying flowers here for years and they don't expect to see chocolates in the window. It was out of context.”
Linda Barton, owner of Richard's Florist, said having West's well-known artisan confections sold alongside her flowers and plants has already boosted sales.
Seventy percent of the flowers delivered this week were accompanied by a box of chocolates. To sweeten the pot, customers get a discount if they order both together.
And if West has three days notice, a flower order can include one of her specialty cakes or bite-size or full sized cupcakes — all made from scratch with fresh ingredients.
The idea of a one-stop shopping for party and wedding planning has expanded to include professional photographer, Suzanne Kidd, who has worked part-time for Barton for several years.
“What we are doing is providing a convenient service for our customers and taking out the middle man,” Barton said.
People can deal directly with the vendors right at the shop and for no extra fee. And if clients use two of the three services offered, they get a discount, she said.
West, who did her research before making the proposal to Barton, said she believes the coordinated effort to put three party-planning services under one roof, with the providers on-site, is the only one of its kind in Maine.
"When I thought about it, it made so much sense. I do flowers and Pam does cakes and Sue does photos,” Barton said. “People love it. And everything gets delivered together.”
Kidd said as the photographer, she would be at the event and would serve as a liaison for the other services.
West said the idea came up just a month ago when she was planning a wedding cake with a customer who wanted it decorated with fresh flowers.
She referred the client to Barton, but then started thinking about the potential of a collaboration that could help everyone's bottom line.
“It was a spur of the moment idea,” West said. “And in this economy, it makes sense to join forces.”
Barton said the businesses complement each other, the women share ideas, and the customers are thrilled.
“I've had several people comment that this is brilliant,” she said.
Store hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For information, call West at 778-2500; Richard's at 778-3401 or online at www.richardsflorist.com.