HERNANDO BEACH — After receiving accolades as a top event decorator in New York City, floral designer Darren Richardson is rapidly earning similar fame at Daffodil Hill Florist, a shop he took over in July, now celebrating its first Christmas of seasonal decor with uncommon creativity, unique components and unusual contrivances.
Consider a pair of larger-than-life snowy and stately gooney birds bedecked in holiday beads and whimsical feather topknots, a holiday tree showcasing every hue of pink in hand-blown glass baubles, silk ti leaves and gossamer bows, a heroic arrangement in silver and alabaster topped with a starburst of lightning-blue lights.
Longtime residents of the beach community have told Richardson they were unaware of the 18-year-old business until the New Yorker stepped onto the premises.
He has combined three small units into one 40,000-square-foot shopping mecca and brightened the exterior with a nod to its sunny-flower name. The out-front sign mentions florist, antiques, gifts, floral and event decorators.
Neighbors here and from neighborhoods to Homosassa and New Port Richey are now counted among Richardson's customers. Noting the appeal to locals, he explained, "If they're going out to dinner, they can stop and grab a flower or a candle or a (hostess) gift and never have to leave the beach."
As for those farther afield, the 50-something entrepreneur pointed out, "We're a premier shop for FTD."
Daffodil Hill boasts a staff of three certified floral designers and enough business to keep them busy.
"Darren's the more creative," designer Rose Rose said. "If you give Darren a box of stuff, he can make something of it."
Richardson said his 30-plus years in the industry enable him to compose an arrangement in minutes. But he might have turned over in his mind a design, its inclusions and enhancements over a period of days before he picks up a stem.
"This is a whole lot more than a florist," Richardson pointed out. "It's not your grandma's flower shop. Because of the uniqueness of the stock, it's a must-see store."
The offering of home decor pieces ranges through vases, hand-blown glass butterfly and hummingbird feeders, tabletop accessories and lamps, and downsized animal replicas, with butterflies and owls currently popular. A few antiques remain, their usual space overtaken by Christmas items.
The affable staff is joined after school hours by eager 9-year-old Aydan Marahilli, Richardson's grandson, who goes by the dual title of stock manager and tour director.
In leading a descriptive look-through, Aydan said, "A lot of things are odd. We look at what would fit the store with its surroundings so it looks pretty."
An adult might replace "odd" with "eclectic."
Pointing to a vase of unadorned salmon-hued silk parrot tulips, Ayden said customers may buy the bunch or a single stem.
"It's up to them, whatever the customer wants."
In addition to custom arrangements, the designers decorate homes for a range of parties and businesses for special events.
Said Aydan of his grandpa: "He never rests, literally."
Richardson's next step: "We have plans for a garden center in the side yard."
Contact Beth Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.