Many Graces Farm: A flower shop blossoms in downtown Northampton

  • Rebecca Maillet and Kel Komenda, owners of Many Graces Flower Shop in Thornes Market Place in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Many Graces Flower Shop in Thornes Market Place in Northampton recently opened and owned by Kel Komenda and Rebecca Maillet. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lindsay Pope wheels into Many Graces Farm & Design, a new flower shop in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton. Many Graces, owned by Rebecca Maillet and Kel Komenda, grows its flowers on a farm of the same name in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A flower arrangement at Many Graces Farm’s new flower shop in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Tulips at Many Graces Farm flower shop, which recently opened on the first floor of Thornes Marketplace in downtown Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rebecca Maillet, left, and Kel Komenda, owners of Many Graces Farm & Design, this month opened a new flower shop on the first floor of Thornes Marketplace in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rebecca Maillet, one of the owners of Many Graces Farm flower shop in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton, wraps tulips on Monday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kel Komenda, left, and Rebecca Maillet, owners of Many Graces Farm & Design flower shop in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton. The shop, which opened this month, will sell flowers that are grown on a farm the business leases in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Monday, February 21, 2022

NORTHAMPTON — To say their flower business is blossoming is an understatement.

From humble beginnings four years ago, Many Graces Farm & Design has transformed into an operation that sells its flowers and custom flower arrangements — grown and made on a flower farm in Hadley — to flower shops, at farmers markets, and for many social events throughout the region.

Now the flower business has made yet another leap forward, this time by opening a new shop earlier this month on the first floor of Thornes Marketplace in downtown Northampton.

“The shop really beautifully bridges the gap between the two sides of the business,” Rebecca Maillet, who started Many Graces in 2018, said during a recent interview inside the new store.

Maillet’s journey to growing flowers actually began in 2015 when she started practicing the trade at Next Barn Over Farm in Hadley. There, she started a small CSA with 30 members and began selling flowers to River Valley Co-op in Northampton, as well as creating floral arrangements for events in the area.

Maillet’s foray into business ownership officially took root in January 2018, when she rented two farm fields totaling 8 acres off Lawrence Plain Road in Hadley — and Many Graces was born. Two years later, Maillet’s business and romantic partner, Kel Komenda, joined full time.

Many Graces set up a pop-up flower shop in Thornes last December and had enough success that the mall’s management offered the business permanent space. Maillet said the couple decided to “take the leap,” noting that the space will allow Many Graces to showcase its businesses offerings — both in the flowers it grows and the arrangements it designs.

“This storefront is a connection to the community,” Komenda said.

Maillet said many people are familiar with the farm-to-table movement when it comes to food, but are less familiar with the idea when it comes to flowers. In 2021 more than 250 varieties of flowers were planted on the couple’s Hadley farm, with more than 600,000 individual plants.

“And that’s all by hand,” Komenda said.

Komenda also noted that the farm grows its flowers with organic methods, and that the plants are never sprayed for pest control.

“We see the return,” Komenda said, noting the relationship between the ecosystem and the insects.

One advantage to having a storefront, explains Maillet, is that far fewer flowers will be transported outside of the area for sale. The business has already stopped delivering to eastern Massachusetts, but will continue to make deliveries in the western part of the state.

Maillet and Komenda have plans to grow year-round, but that requires a heated greenhouse first. Right now all of the dried flowers in the shop were grown on the farm, while the fresh flowers are sourced elsewhere. The shop will start selling Many Graces’ own fresh flowers in April, and will continue into the fall.

“In about six weeks we’ll start having our own stuff,” Maillet said.

Maillet grew up in Orange, and visited Thornes when she was growing up.

“It does feel sweet to have a store here now,” Maillet said. “Thornes is a Northampton icon.”

The shop is open seven days a week during Thornes’ regular hours.

The business is hiring, and the couple expressed hope that having the shop can allow for more work for their employees.

“We’re looking for some folks who want to be around for awhile,” Komenda said.

Counting the couple, the business employs about a dozen people at its seasonal peak.

The shop also decided to hold a buy one-give-one fundraiser for the Trans Asylum Seeker Support Network, a mutual aid organization that aids transgender and queer asylum-seekers in crossing the border and making a new life for themselves in the United States. Those who buy flowers can also gift flowers to the Trans Asylum Support Network, with half of the gift going to flowers for the organization and half going to the organization in the form of a monetary donation.

The couple noted how far the business has come, with Komenda pointing out that Maillet comes from a working class background.

“I started this business with negative dollars,” Maillet said. “I built it from the ground up.”

In 2018 the business didn’t have a refrigerator, while in 2019 it operated out of two shipping containers.

Komenda encourages people to come to the farm and check out its operations, both to see the work being done there and to learn about how they can grow their own flowers. Maillet hopes the store will also become a flower resource for customers.

“We love talking to people, we love connecting,” Maillet said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.