Q&A with Kieth Pierpont, Founder and Owner of Pierpont Blossom Farm
Was that your first time at the flower market?
It was and it was amazing. I immediately got a job at People’s Market working for Whitney Weiner after telling him I was a family man in need of a job. I told him I would work any sort of job he needed me to do.
I was working under their head designer, Herman, who had a glass eye and was colorblind. Needless to say, their design style needed some help.
When did you break into doing your own thing?
I opened up my own store across the street from Whitey. It was called Treemania. We were “treemaniacs!”
One of my clients was Keith Kevin, a big time manager in the entertainment industry. Next thing I know, I was doing work for the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden, designing for Studio 54, and much more. It was a wild time.
Fascinating. So then where did you go from here?
Well, then I closed Treemania. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was too much. So I went to work for the Israeli Government.
A friend of mine told me that they wanted a salesman. The company was called Agrexco. It was a branch of the government. They needed support importing the flowers and getting them sold.
They saw that I really had a skill to sell. I had my own technique. I would hang up on people. I would turn away business. But they would always call back.
At the time, it was only a nickel a stem. I would keep hanging up on customers until I could sell what I wanted to sell. I was so intense about it. I was there for about a couple of years and then I got out.
How did you get into the flower industry?
I grew up in Hampton Bays but I was born in Milford, CT in 1950. That’s where my Italian mother met my father, Pierpont. We moved out to the East End because my step father was in the air force and there was an air force base in WestHampton. I met my first wife, we got pregnant and moved to the city, where her family was from. With a baby on the way, I needed to get a job and fast. I took a job at a florist on Park Ave and 55th street and they put me in the plant department. One day, the lead designer asked me to copy one of his designs when he was in a bind because one of his clients ordered 15 more arrangements at the last minute before a big event. At the time, I had never designed a floral arrangement before, but by the time I was done, he couldn’t tell the difference between his original piece and mine. That’s when I discovered something about myself and decided to pursue a natural talent I had found.
What happened after you discovered your talent?
Well, after some time working at this florist, I went to the owner and tried to form a union… and I was immediately fired. I didn’t know what I did wrong! Of course, with a baby at home, my wife just looked at me and said “okay, go get out there and find yourself a new job, dummy!” And so, I started scouting for a florist with a “help wanted” sign one day. I went on the bus and looked out the window until I saw something amazing and asked the bus driver to stop immediately. It was the flower market.
When did you open your first florist?
It was the 1980s. We opened up a store on York Ave between 76/77th street. This lady comes in and says “I have this party that I would like you to do...it’s probably about $100,000 in flowers.” After meeting her, we thought to ourselves, “how are we going to do this?!” This was the family who owned Darby Drugs. I rented trucks, extra refrigerators, everything. I figured things out to make it happen. I always do. I started Treemania on my Mastercard. You just figure it out. That’s what I’ve always believed in.
After we did that party, we were on the map. We were in every magazine. I hired a publicist. We were being referred by all the major hotels. I designed for all the big names- celebrities, socialites, business executives. We were hot.
How long did you have that shop?
I built up the business. I was doing $4M a year and wanted to scale and sell it. I did a big party for Jack Welsh with the biggest budget we had ever worked with. That blew my gasket. We did lighting, table cloths, everything. Real event production. It took me 36 hours to build everything and put it together. I didn’t sleep. After all of that, I said “that’s it.” That’s when I decided I needed to make a change.
My step father found this land and I knew it was my next step. At the time, it was 13 acres of just poison ivy and woods with the one barn. You couldn’t build on majority of the land but I didn’t care because I wanted to farm it. I returned back to where I grew up.
Our tagline is “embrace your roots.” you went back to your roots.
Yes. I bought this in 1999. I planted right away. I didn’t know what I was doing but I knew the flowers I wanted to plant. French Lilac, for one. But I didn’t cut anything that first year.
How did the farm grow into what it is now?
I had to learn a lot. I made a lot of mistakes. I thought you just had to put it in the ground! Well, now the farm is a very serious business. After I didn’t make any money the first year, I thought, “well, I really need to start figuring this out.”
What do you grow today?
I just planted 4,000 sweetpea. Lisianthus. Peonies, I love peonies. I have all kinds of hydrangea. French Lilac. Dahlias. So many dahlias.
Which Dhalia is your favorite?
So many! Too hard to say. Out of the 13 acres, three are planted just with Dahlias.
Any final words?
I like to always remember that flowers are part of the earth. Just looking at them, they have their own genius. It’s inspiring.
Photos by Barbaraellen Koch for North Forker and Pierpont Blossom Farms