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Pandemic Pivot by a Local Florist, by Juliette Gregg, LUS

Pandemic Pivot by a Local Florist, by Juliette Gregg, LUS

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Kensington florist John & Jessie shifts gears in an attempt to help the community during lockdown and their business blooms.

John & Jessie, a tiny 14-year old Kensington flower shop begun by two siblings, had only just expanded into the shopfront next door in January 2020, fulfilling a decade-long wish to enlarge its sliver of a shop. Then the pandemic struck.

Flowers, being considered certainly by the government as non-essential, meant the store would close during lockdown. But Jessie struggled not only with the concept of closing the doors, but also with the feeling of powerlessness to help the local community, which she knew well after 14 years of trading.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention and, with covid-19 and this special florist, that proved to be the case. Figuring they could at least put their delivery services to better use, Jessie together with her boyfriend, Jack, decided to transform the new shopfront into an essential greengrocer delivering produce to clients across West London at a time when online & offline grocers were struggling to meet demand. Finding produce suppliers was in fact the easiest part, as they were already familiar with the best fruit and veg vendors from the produce and flower wholesale markets.

A few lashings of gold paint on the signage – which now read Jack & Jessie – and a thriving business was born. Indeed, in a matter of weeks, thanks to an active Instagram campaign and word of mouth from existing clientele, Jack & Jessie would be considered the envy of even the most legendary greengrocer. Produce sales exceeded expectations. Jessie sent out weekly Sunday posts with photos and availability, happy to deliver across West London as best as they could manage. Quickly their Sunday posts became as essential as the produce itself, welcome missives from the outside world, especially for those living alone or isolating.

On the October day I visited the shop, there was a steady trickle of clients being greeted by sales clerks. I overheard discussions about the cooking qualities of various squash and speculation about the remaining length of the fig season. The clerk behind the till was utterly absorbed in carving pumpkin faces into a trio of green, yellow and red sweet peppers, only roused by a shopper who came to collect several baskets of bulbs. John & Jessie / Jack & Jessie seemed to be a model example of how to manage through a pandemic and come out new and improved.

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