Seen this blue VW van around town? We peeked inside and got to know Milwaukee's newest florists.

 

Leslie Hansen and Mandy Meyer met while volunteering on the decorations committee at St. Monica School’s annual auction and dinner dance in Whitefish Bay.

“We bonded over our love for flowers right after that,” says Meyer.

That meeting, many years ago, was when their kids were still young. Now that they’ve flown the coop, the women are taking a deeper dive into their crushes on petals and blooms by converting a VW bus into a mobile flower business called Bluebird Design. The van slid into its first stop on Mother’s Day and now they tour the city from Jazz in the Park concerts to in front of Northwestern Mutual’s building (plus the company’s Tuesday farmer’s market). Stops are announced on the Bluebird Design’s Instagram feed.

Both women grew up in gardening families. Hansen’s mom was a master gardener. “I grew up gathering flowers in the meadow in Door County with my grandmother,” says Meyer.

Finding the right van for their new business wasn’t easy. Then, one day, Meyer had a light-bulb moment: What if the owners of the pretty, turquoise VW van she’d been driving by all summer sold it to her? When she built up the courage to knock on their door, she was met with devastating news. It had already been sold.

That night, the owners—who acquired the van in California with plans to use it at On the Bus inside the Milwaukee Public Market—phoned Meyer with an offer. The women bought the van immediately.

Meyer’s husband, a sailor, had the right skills to help retrofit the van’s interiors. In order to get a peddler’s license, city codes require everything—including the wrapping station for bouquets—to be off the ground. “He knew how to trick it out,” says Hansen.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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They didn’t work alone. Local Volkswagen experts Tom and Dan Karagianis of Tarkus Complete Automotive Services helped get the van into tip-top shape. “They became our cheerleaders here,” says Meyer.

“Sophisticated and a bit more artfully crafted and designed” is how Meyer describes their aesthetic, along with “whimsical.” Each bouquet’s flowers and greens are culled according to the seasons. That means lilacs in spring, peonies come summer and orange and yellow flowers for autumn. They also make their bouquets as locally and sustainably grown as possible. The women partner with flower farmers in northern and southern parts of Wisconsin to broaden their reach.

The average price for a bouquet is $30. The $15 to $35 range includes plants such as succulents and cacti. “You’d be surprised by how much the price of flowers fluctuates by what’s going on in our state with the cold or drought, or when a storm hits us,” says Hansen.

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