(The following article was written by neighborhood freelance writer Vickie Bona. It is part of an occasional series on small neighborhood businesses.)
When strolling in the vicinity of 85th Street and Greenwood Avenue, keep an eye open for the lovely Terra Bella Flowers. A small storefront just southwest of the intersection, Terra Bella Flowers offers a quiet reprieve from busy streets.
As soon as you enter, the natural fragrance of flowers soothes the soul and clears the mind, freeing you to absorb all the small details which owner Melissa Feveyear arranges into her space. The feel is classic, with an eclectic twist, and Feveyear is just as much a part of the scenery, with her cascading strawberry blonde ringlets and soft-spoken demeanor.
(Photo by David E. Perry, courtesy of Terra Bella Flowers.)
Terra Bella Flowers is the culmination of Melissa’s pursuit to preserve the natural beauty of the earth. Her flowers have no pesticides or chemical fertilizer residue.
Melissa was introduced to the floral business at age 15, doing small jobs in her aunt’s flower shop in Porterville, CA. At about this same time, her environmental conscience was also sprouting. During school breaks she traveled to Mexico, volunteering as an English and art teacher. She worked in a shanty school that was built on top of a covered landfill, overlooking the vast pit of the operating landfill. While the children studied, their parents spent the day scavenging in the pit next to the school. There was a children’s cemetery nearby and, to Melissa’s dismay, each time she returned to the school, the cemetery had expanded.
For three years Melissa made regular trips to Mexico to teach. These journeys opened Melissa’s eyes to how humans were treating the environment and the reciprocating impact of pollution. She decided to take up the cause. In college, she enrolled in Environmental Studies and Hazardous Waste Management. She also volunteered at Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition.
Caught up in the embroiled fight for environmental responsibility, Melissa found she missed having direct contact with plants and so she decided to take a different tack, one that continued to promote environmentalism yet allowed her to do what she loved most.
She changed her major to Landscape Design with the intention of building landscapes that removed toxins from the earth. She also completed her certification in floral design to help pay for her college. Working with flowers again, she realized she really loved floral design, so she returned to her floral roots.
Melissa and her husband moved to Seattle in 1999 and Melissa found work at a flower shop in Magnolia. She then converted an Airstream trailer into a floral shop and set up on the corner of 65th Street and 3rd Avenue NW. Melissa bought her flowers from the Pike Place Market vendors and found she loved having her own business.
She closed down at the end of the growing season, with an idea to open a more permanent shop. In 2006, when Phinney Ridge Florist at 103rd Street and Greenwood Avenue went up for sale, Melissa, with the help of her family, purchased the small shop and began to cultivate her vision: to be Seattle’s premier organic flower shop.
But the location was not ideal. With little foot traffic and parking, Melissa was already searching for a better spot to transplant her growing business. She liked the corner of 85th and Greenwood, so she approached the owners of Antika. They agreed to rent her the space at 8417 Greenwood Ave. N.
In 2008, under her new name, Terra Bella Flowers opened its doors in the heart of the Greenwood district. Melissa sources local, organic, and sustainably grown flowers. In the summer, most of the flowers she sells are grown locally. In the winter, she supplements with orders from California and South America. She’s found that the South American market has more stringent rules protecting against pesticide use and that the carbon footprint of transporting organic is less than that of locally grown flowers sprayed with toxic chemicals.
Melissa follows fair trade and sustainable practices guidelines when seeking vendors. There are certifications she looks for that guarantee these qualities, such as the Veriflora certification and Sierra Eco. Terra Bella Flowers is a premium flower shop and full service design studio with certified designers, highlighting the incredible, natural beauty and character of flowers and plants. And, Melissa emphasizes, pricing is competitive with any conventional flower shop.
Melissa also continues to maintain a level of activism, promoting sustainable practices in the floral industry. She has worked with the WA State University Outreach Program and Community Supported Agriculture and is constantly in dialog with suppliers about sustainable choices. And she’s always looking for new local growers who practice sustainable farming.
To complement her love of the earth, Melissa adorns her shop with antiques and repurposed arts and crafts. She supports local artisans and welcomes more products and artwork for consignment. One of her favorite collections are the handmade aprons created from vintage fabrics by a mother and daughter team who call themselves Boojiboo.
Although she has a natural flair for beauty, Melissa also has a natural business sensibility. She does a lot of networking and always has her ear out for new opportunities. She can be seen at neighborhood small business gatherings and local Chamber of Commerce meetings.
Terra Bella flowers is much more than a pretty face on Greenwood Avenue. It is a business dedicated to inspiring appreciation for the natural beauty of the earth, while actively working for sustainable change in the industry. Melissa’s motto: “Naturally Inspired!”