Text by Hannah Jones
Come the holiday season, you’d expect to find your local garden center overflowing with traditional Christmas goods—bright red poinsettias, Christmas roses, lush evergreen wreaths—but at Shoppe in Birmingham, Alabama, you’ll find the classics and so much more as the store becomes awash in the splendor of the season.
Owners Mark Thompson and Jay Draper both have a love of gardening and design, having worked for various garden centers over the course of their careers. Owning a store was just a dream until an evening stroll with their dog led them to the current home of their little garden shop—a 1920s bungalow nestled in Birmingham’s Forest Park neighborhood. “We talked about opening a place for a long time, but we never felt like the spot or opportunity was just the right combination,” Mark says. When they saw the charming neighborhood bungalow, they both knew it would work as their garden shop. After a four-month renovation, which included bringing in a greenhouse from England, the two opened the doors in the fall of 2017.
When helping customers create the ultimate holiday décor, Mark is quick to share his two best tips: First, buy double the greenery and keep the second set outside because the heat of the home will most likely dry out the first. Second, after measuring your garland, lay it down in front of the desired placement, cut it in the center, and reverse one side, then tie it together with floral wire before hanging it so both sides will hang down beautifully.
More than just a shop, the storefront is also where the couple and their team work on arrangements and garden design. And during the holiday season, lush greenery makes its way to the center stage. But take a few steps past the door and you’ll quickly find that the little bungalow has so much more to offer. Orchids and magnolia wreaths and poinsettias in various shades—every room of the cottage-style shop holds a different treasure trove of holiday magic.
Drawing from his childhood in rural Alabama as well as global-inspired design, Mark creates arrangements to match any client’s wish list. “Sometimes I think it’s like a sixth sense,” Mark says of his design process. “I try to stay in tune with what’s current but also follow my heart, and I’m not scared of color or pattern.” Sometimes, clients come in with specific plans of what they want, while others just have a starting point, such as a family heirloom. No matter what Mark and Jay are given, though, they’re sure to bring their clients’ dreams to life.