Seeds of Success in the Lower 9: BLucid Floral Continues to Grow
BLucid Floral is all about the vibe. With soft, peach-toned walls and pops of color everywhere, accented by artwork from Courtney “Ceaux” Buckley, photographs by Ashley Lorraine, and of course, flowers everywhere. The Ninth Ward shop is owned by Black florist Brandi Charlot.
I pulled up to BLucid Floral a few minutes after 1 p.m. on a Friday to grab a quick interview and a few photos with owner Brandi Charlot. By 4 p.m. we were finally able to sit down and talk. Her shop, which was formerly private, was now open to the public, and the public showed up. In a driving rainstorm, customer after customer came through the door to pick up flowers and marvel at the space.
“I would say what I enjoy most about the shop is the vibe,” said first-time customer Danielle Morris, carrying a plant she had just purchased.
A place for spirits to gather
BLucid Floral is all about the vibe. With soft, peach-toned walls and pops of color everywhere, accented by artwork from Courtney “Ceaux” Buckley, photographs by Ashley Lorraine, and of course, flowers everywhere.
“It was my personal feelings and thoughts. There was nothing drawn out,” said Charlot of the design of the shop. And the builders channeled her energy. “I had a vision. As far as the buildout, the painting — it was like kindred spirits.”
BLucid is a place for these spirits to gather. One Sunday a month, live jazz can be heard cascading from the front porch while wine and champagne are served alongside charcuterie. Lorraine sells her photography on the front lawn of the shop. Inside there are candles, puzzles, and other wares for sale made by local creatives. The concept is tied together by “The Flower Bar,” where customers can mix and match different “stems” and create custom bouquets and vases. It has captured the imagination of the community.
“They love it,” said Charlot. “It’s something that we needed. It allows them to come in and see different and unique flowers. It’s like a historic milestone here they say. We hear all kinds of different things. They love it.”
Corey McCloud, head football coach and athletic director for Frederick Douglass High School, stopped in for blue roses for senior night and was one of the newly enamored customers.
“It’s awesome,” McCloud said. “A Black-owned local business, I couldn’t ask for anything more. Then when I called they were friendly. We talked like we’ve been knowing each other for years.”
It’s not just people from around BLucid’s Lower Ninth Ward locale either.
“The Westbank, Slidell, I had a young family come from Mississippi just to surprise their mom. I get a lot of people from Luling. The support has been from many places,” said Charlot.
‘The Flower Bar’
Part of this is Charlot’s leveraging of social media. There was a time when she would arrange flowers, photograph them, post them on Instagram, and sell them from the front porch of the double shotgun house on St. Claude Avenue which now houses her shop. On nice days, she would ride her tricycle from her home in the Lower Ninth Ward across the St. Claude Bridge to the French Quarter, selling flowers out of the cooler affixed to the front of it. Most people thought she was selling ice cream, not handmade floral arrangements. And after the initial surprise, these newfound customers would enthusiastically purchase from Charlot, just as they did when she started selling flower crowns outside of Jazz Fest. This unconventional approach helped her understand the wants and needs of her customers. And it also helped her to adapt during the strange and challenging year of 2020.
“The inspiration for ‘The Flower Bar’ came during the pandemic,” said Charlot. “Thinking of ideas of how I could connect to more people during a time when income is down. I wanted them to be able to see, touch and feel the flowers, so they would have something to do. I wanted to create a different lifestyle in the community.”
Connecting to the community has always been one of Charlot’s imperatives. She understands the importance of BLucid’s success in the Lower Ninth Ward, where new businesses are few and far between, and how important it is to set a positive example for the next generation of Black women entrepreneurs.
“I’ve been working with Brandi for about a month now, and it’s been great,” intern Deja Lodree beamed.
Charlot refers to Lodree as her “protégé,” and Lodree’s good energy lights up the room. BLucid is a happy place, where you are just as likely to catch Charlot and Lodree dancing to Stevie Wonder as making bouquets. Lodree, a Southern University grad, knows she found the right workplace.
“I actually was just another person in the community admiring her work,” said Lodree. “ I’ve always been into flowers and people and just having good vibes and kind gestures. And that’s what I am into, and along the way I found Brandi. She is a mentor to me and helping me become certified in floral design. She’s taken me under her wing and is showing me how to be a businesswoman in our community. And that’s an amazing thing.”
For Charlot the admiration is mutual.
“I love, love Deja,” said Charlot. “I know that God sent me Deja. She has the work ethic, she catches on, she loves flowers, she loves what I’m doing. And that’s what’s most important.”
Lodree isn’t Charlot’s only mentee, however. On the other side of the double shotgun house that she inherited from her father is a studio space where Charlot will host “flower crown classes for young girls to connect with their inner beings.” These classes will build on Charlot’s annual “Connected to the Crown” event, which gives young girls a safe space to create, eat nutritious meals, and listen to accomplished speakers in their community. But now Charlot will be able to offer the classes throughout the year.
Despite the challenges of 2020, Charlot is grateful that she was able to bring so many of her ideas to fruition, including a book she co-authored with Lorraine called “Black Florist x Black Photographer.”
“The book was developed during the pandemic because I felt all of my ideas were what the clients wanted,” said Charlot. “I was finally able to execute my style. My tastes in the different flowers. Actually creating a story.”
The book was also developed to challenge the assumptions faced by “a Black woman working in a white market,” and to showcase the quality and creativity of Charlot’s floral design despite the historical lack of access in the industry.
“As a Black, female florist, I am actually able to connect all walks of life,” said Charlot. “There’s a lot of diversity that comes into the space. That alone is more important to me than anything. But I do not dismiss all the things our ancestors sacrificed and fought for.”
But what Charlot wants to change the most is the perceptions surrounding her neighborhood, the Lower Ninth Ward.
“Revitalization is very important to me within the Lower Nine,” said Charlot. “Over time, just like my flowers, it will blossom. I think my shop alone, and what it stands for, will send a message, like a transmitter for the community, saying this is something we can overcome.”
And the flowers will one day bloom, because Charlot has planted the seeds.
Know before you go:
BLucid Floral, 5113 St Claude Avenue, NOLA 70117
Hours: Tues.-Fri. 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., plus one Sunday a month