An Unconventional Floral-Design Shop in Frenchtown

At Hawk+Floret, creativity and community flourish amid the pandemic.

hawk and floret frenchtown betty baines-saum

Betty-Baines Saum, right, envisioned her floral design, eclectic housewares and accessories shop as a community hub. Despite Covid-19, she has made it so with sold-out, socially distanced events. Courtesy of Hawk+Floret/Joseph Bonin

It was early March, and Betty-Baines Saum had big plans for the opening of her Frenchtown shop, Hawk+Floret. An outgrowth of her outside-the-box floral-design business known as FlowerPorn, the shop would offer her “floraged” creations—decorative pieces crafted from moss, bark, seedpods and other natural materials—as well as an array of items that struck her fancy, from funky and artisanal housewares to vintage toys and furniture. More importantly, the shop would sponsor events like live music and themed parties designed to bring the community together.

And then, thanks to Covid-19, the community shut down. Established businesses temporarily shut their doors or closed for good. It was possibly the least auspicious time in recent memory to start a new venture. But that’s exactly what Saum did, opening Hawk+Floret on June 17. Against all odds, it flourished and is doing what Saum envisioned: “I was really hoping to create a space where people leave the concerns of the outside world at the door,” she says. “And I’ve watched it happen every day.”

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Indeed, the quotidian has no place in a retail space that stocks outsider art, mid-century modern furnishings, religious icons, vintage toys and Saum’s own FlowerPorn line of herbal teas, fragrances and organic hand sanitizer. A recent visit revealed one-of-a-kind finds like a Mardi Gras chicken mask, a pair of brightly colored, potholder-style looped rugs, a surprisingly fetching oil painting of a human brain, and a sinuous driftwood lamp whose shade Saum crafted from floraged materials.

Covid-19 notwithstanding, Saum has managed to put on a number of community events, including a sold-out, socially distanced healing circle and several outdoor concerts. During the summer, after a friend in town opened a skateboarding school, Saum, inspired by her skater son, created a pop-up skateboard shop at the back of the store. It’s closed now, but it, or some other community-inspired endeavor, may spring up in warmer weather. But whatever treasures you encounter on the shelves, you can be sure they’ll encourage you to leave your concerns at the door.

40 Bridge Street, Frenchtown; 917-880-3504.

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