TROY — In 2014, Samantha Nass moved from New York City to Saratoga Springs with her husband, leaving behind a 20-year career in the finance sector to pursue a lifelong passion of opening a floral shop.
Samantha Nass Floral Design operated as an appointment-only business in its early years — catering to weddings and other large events. But when the pandemic hit in 2020 and such events became few and far between, Nass was forced to rethink her business in order to remain open.
“COVID really changed a lot of people’s business models,” she said. “One thing we felt was that we wanted to get more in touch with our community.”
In January, Nass relocated her business — which specializes in European-style designs — to Lawrence Street in Saratoga Springs and introduced a retail component for anyone looking for what she describes as “high quality boutiques in a unique vessel.”
On Sunday, she was posted near the entrance of the Capital Region Flower and Garden Expo, which featured around 160 vendors for its return to the campus of Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, following a two-year absence necessitated by the pandemic.
“The timing couldn’t be better,” Nass said.
Thousands attended the three-day event, which began Friday and featured businesses throughout the region selling everything from seeds and bulbs, to succulents and local wines. Tickets ranged from $12 to $15, with a portion of proceeds benefiting Wildwood Programs, an area nonprofit benefiting those with autism and other developmental disabilities.
A steady stream of attendees were spotted heading to the exit carrying houseplants and pamphlets collected from the various vendors, which included Felthousen’s Florist and Greenhouse from Schenectady and Amsterdam’s White Cottage Gardens.
Others in attendance were spotted photographing the various floral arrangements, while some groups posed for pictures in front of the same displays located in the lobby of the college’s McDonough Sports Complex, where the event was held.
The event normally takes a full year to plan but came together in just three months, according to Pennie Gonzalez, an event manager with Spring Time Marketing, which organized the expo.
This year’s event was scaled back compared to previous iterations, which she attributed to the tight time frame as well as supply chain issues and staffing shortages facing large landscaping vendors, which normally set up displays between 1,000 and 2,000 square feet in size.
Gonzalez said the venue wasn’t made available until last fall, amid the surging pandemic driven first by the delta variant and then the omicron surge.
“After having a devastating shutdown in 2020, it was scary to commit to doing it again when you see the COVID numbers skyrocketing,” she said.
Still, attendees didn’t seem bothered by the pandemic, with a vast majority opting not to wear a face mask and some expressing disappointment that the larger vendors were not set up as usual.
Others, however, were excited just to walk through the various vendors, including Jackie Cahill of East Greenbush, who attends the event each year and was spotted leaving with a cactus and a bag full of other trinkets.
“It was a little scaled back, but still very nice,” she said. “There were a lot of plants this year. More plants this year than other kinds of vendors.”
George Anker said he was surprised how many different offerings were available at the expo, noting that the event went well beyond landscaping and gardening.
Inside, Sarah Hunt, owner of the Saratoga Springs-based Dirt & Decor Designs, said she had a steady stream of customers purchasing boutiques and inquiring about landscape design, which she said was the business’ specialty.
The pandemic, she said, has caused a number of supply chain issues that persist, but has proven to be a boon for business, since many have opted not to travel and instead catch up on outdoor projects they have been pushing off.
“I think people not taking vacation and staying home, they finally got around to those projects they’ve been looking at on their properties,” Hunt said.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.