by Emma Wilmarth
North Park, San Diego is one of the many hipster neighborhoods sprinkled all over California; take a stroll down the main street, University Ave, and you’re sure to find café after café after gift shop followed by bars and restaurants. Basically there’s a plethora of places that only the coolest kids go to. However, out of all of the aesthetically pleasing stops along University Ave, one stands out. Native Poppy and Communal Coffee.
Nestled on the corner of University Ave and Texas St is a flower and coffee shop that is basically every whimsical childhood dream come to life not to mention the best almond croissants I have ever had in my life. To be clear have had a lot, I repeat A LOT, of croissants in my life so I’m pretty much an expert. Now as much as I could talk about the coffee and food of Communal Coffee which also includes a pumpkin spice latte that literally tastes like pumpkin pie, what I’m really excited about is Native Poppy.
For those of you who follow me on Instagram you know my love of flowers because I document that love almost weekly (and I’m not sorry about it). Native Poppy has only contributed to my love, nay my obsession with all things floral and how could it not? After walking through what feels like a whimsical forest of hanging decorations, candles, cards, and every other item for you home that you don’t need but you do NEED (you know what I mean) you finally get to my absolute favorite part of Native Poppy; the Stem Bar. The Stem Bar is a rainbow, literally, of every gorgeous flower you could think of and then more where you can handpick each flower and put together your own bouquet (the bouquet I put together is pictured here and on my Instagram). Or, you can pick up one of the gorgeous, already arranged bouquets made by one of the lovely florists all trained by the mastermind behind Native Poppy, Natalie Gill.
I had the pleasure to interview Natalie (below); take a peek!
E: Where are you from and what made you to decide to be in San Diego?
N: I was born in San Francisco, CA and grew up on the peninsula in the bay area. After high school I attended UCSD and never wanted to leave because San Diego is the best – duh. I love the sunshine and warm weather, laid back attitude, and ultimately the friendships and community I cultivated here.
E: When did you first get into floral design and what inspired the decision to start?
N: I have always loved flowers, gardening and interacting with nature but becoming a florist was never the plan. In 2013 I was dissatisfied with my corporate job and found myself spending a lot of time on Pinterest wishing my life was more beautiful and creative. I started writing lists about what I wanted my ideal life to look like – i.e….. work with my hands, have projects that were always changing, be connected to nature….etc. After all that I narrowed my new career options to cake decorating and becoming a florist – and ultimately I felt more inspired and excited about working with flowers. I called up the only florist I knew in San Francisco and asked if I could come work for him over the holiday season – he said yes and the rest is pretty much history. I took a giant leap of faith that if I jumped whole heartedly the universe would conspire to help me. I worked every single day for many years after that studying flower arrangements, interacting with people I admired and practicing, practicing, practicing.
E: How did the name “Native Poppy” come about?
N: The California state flower is the poppy and I am a California Native. I don’t quite remember how the name “Native Poppy” came into existence…but all I know is that when I thought of it – it just felt right.
E: Native Poppy has a stunning assortment of plants and different flowers, many that you wouldn’t see in conventional flower shops; how do you choose the flowers and other plants?
N: I just choose the ones that speak to me; I am a very emotional buyer. I see something that is pretty and I have to take it home. I rarely ask the prices on things I’m buying – because it doesn’t matter as much to me. I care about the quality, color, and my relationship with the grower. Flowers are friends and I wish I could take them all home with me.
E: The combination of Native Poppy and Communal Coffee is what really attracted me in the first place and also what made me fall in love with the shop, what prompted the decision to join Communal Coffee?
N: Jen Byard – the owner of Communal Coffee – approached me about opening a joint shop. She thought the shared space concept was much more intriguing and I couldn’t disagree; the coffee shop brings my flower shop foot traffic and a wider audience than some other flowers shop have and I think the hustle and bustle brings activity and beauty to the coffee house experience. Plus – I was spending WAY too much money on coffee before and now I can trade coffee for flowers which is pretty much the greatest.
Another big thank you to Natalie for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions! So for any of you in San Diego be sure to take a trip down to Communal Coffee and Native Poppy; I promise you will not regret it! And for those of you who can’t go, you can still get a peek inside the world of whimsy that is Native Poppy in the video!