Sarah Schmitz, the new owner of long-running Boulder florist Sturtz & Copeland, got an early start in what has become a labor of love.
“I’ve always had a love of nature,” Schmitz says. “My mom was a huge gardener and very good with decorating.”
The business carries an inventory of house plants, pottery, gifts, greeting cards, jewelry, candles, body care, home decor and, most notably, fresh-cut flowers for weddings, holidays and other events. Schmitz, who grew up in Arvada and went to school in Gunnison, started working at the shop in June 2020 but formally took over in February after purchasing the business from former owner, Carol Riggs.
Schmitz says she is a big book collector, and she remembers ordering a coffee table book about flower arranging that first drew her to the art form. She remembers looking through it and thinking: “I can do this.”
“The main thing with floral design is you learn best from experience,” she says. “The most I ever learned was working in flower shops and getting to make the arrangements.”
She adds that she is a big believer in continuing education through life, and Sturtz and Copeland, true to that value, has long offered workshops for professional and amateur flower arrangers alike. Flower work comes with many certifications one can pursue. One can even obtain the title of “doctor” in the field.
Schmitz earned a degree in biology and environmental ecology from Western Colorado University in 2011 and worked a variety of jobs in the service industry. Not feeling the urge to go back to school for a graduate degree, she went to flower school in Denver and has never looked back.
“That was kind of my first test to see if I’d like the business,” she says. “I enjoyed it, and from there I started working in flower shops and event companies. I liked being creative. I loved working with flowers. Weddings are my thing. My background has always been weddings.”
Prior to working at and eventually buying the Boulder business, Schmitz lived in Crested Butte for 10 years, where she had owned a flower shop since 2014. She moved back to Arvada a few years ago when she had her son, Arlo.
“I was planning on starting up another flower business,” she says. “I put that on hold because of COVID. Things were all weird.”
Schmitz found out through a friend that Sturtz and Copeland was hiring floral designers, so she landed a job at the shop with the idea of it being a temporary move until she could get her own business started again. She found out a year into her employment that the owner was planning to sell the place, and made arrangements to buy the business.
“We began figuring out how to make it work,” Schmitz recalls.
She likes working with locally grown flowers, and sources them from farms near Berthoud and Longmont.
“It’s more of a summer thing, which is great for weddings,” she says. “I love working with zinnias and dahlias and ranunculus. Those are all available locally. Those are fun textures and unique textures.”
Valentine’s Day and Mothers Day are busy times for the shop, although Mothers Day is more reliable because the weather is usually nicer. A snowy Valentine’s Day in Boulder can put a damper on business somewhat. People also get flowers for anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, thank-yous and housewarming gifts.
The shop gets fresh flowers at least twice a week, and sometimes as many as four times a week. Everything is kept in floral coolers. They select flowers based on what they are used for. For example, a corsage takes a more hardy flower that won’t wither as quickly. The shop is mindful of this so as to avoid waste.
“It is a perishable product,” she says. “People are paying for something that isn’t going to live. It’s like going to the grocery store. There is an expiration date.”
In spite of their impermanence, Schmitz says flowers represent hope for people. Flowers can also be so pretty that they don’t seem real, and that draws people to them as well.
“The way they are making flowers these days with lots of crazy variations,” she says. “They are making really crazy colors of flowers that are natural. They are simple but intricate. They are peaceful.”
She pauses a beat and asks herself: “What do people love about flowers?”
“I don’t know if I know how to answer that exactly,” she says. “It’s probably a thousand answers. Gardening is such a big thing, and Sturtz has been involved with that. It goes hand in hand with flowers, just being able to grow something and put in the hard work and reap the rewards.”
Sturtz & Copeland has operated in Boulder since 1929, according to its website, but the business’s origins stretch back to 1882. James and Rhoda Hubbard bought land at 1500 Arapahoe, then a dirt road on the highway to Denver, to build a set of greenhouses. In 1928, Lloyd and Gladys Sturtz bought the one greenhouse of what was then called Fawcett Floral, and Sturtz and Copeland was born when Gladys’ father, Albert W. Copeland, bought into the business. Riggs bought the business in 1976, and moved it to Valmont Road in 1981.
The business, which has 23 employees, has a new home, once again on Arapahoe Avenue, farther to the east, but still in Boulder proper. It no longer has a greenhouse. Schmitz says she would like to see the business have a greenhouse again someday.
“I think we are just going to have to work back up to it,” she says. “It was always a greenhouse, but it was more so for cut flowers, like they were more florists than they were bedding plants or houseplants. They grew flowers.”
She says the shop not selling bedding plants currently has been hard for some longtime customers to cope with, because many of them have been coming in since they were children. People in Boulder feel very closely connected to Sturtz. It’s been a sanctuary for people going through tough times. A philodendron tree at the Valmont location, which will be torn down at some point, even garnered notes of support from Boulderites sad at its coming demise. Schmitz likes working in a town that is so dedicated to a local business.
“I appreciate Boulder for following us along and still being willing to shop at Sturtz,” she says. “I think if it were a bigger city, it wouldn’t matter to people as much.”
Schmitz plans on hosting more workshops to keep in the community spirit of the shop. She’d like to have a community garden and donate fruit and vegetables. It’s likely she’ll have to pick up some land outside of Boulder to build a new greenhouse, but it’s something she really wants to do.
“I just want to reassure the community and Sturtz customers that Sturtz has changed, but we are still here,” she says. “We are still a part of the community, and we still care about being a part of the community.”
Sturtz & Copeland is located at 3550 Arapahoe Ave Suite 7. It’s open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit sturtzandcopeland.com.