Candice Martin had a vision for the flowers she wanted for the party celebrating her out-of-town wedding. She had lots of milky-white vases at her Rothsville home and wanted to fill them with flowers that were more neutral, less flashy.
“I was going to a florist and I didn’t find anything I liked,” she says. “It was roses or carnations. There’s much more variety here.”
“Here” is a vintage truck, the back of it bursting with flowers. Martin spotted it a few weeks earlier, while driving past Lititz Farmers Market. Just before her party, she stopped at Lititz Springs Park, found the truck and filled a bucket with white and pale pink cremon mums and pom pom cushion flowers.
Luckily, Martin made it to the truck as the market opened. By the time the market vendors wrapped up their day, Olivia’s Flower Truck had almost sold out of every last flower, leaf and filler.
The truck is like a pop-up florist on wheels. It’s a vintage Chevrolet Corvair Rampside truck that draws people in who want to take a look at the flowers and take pictures to share on social media.
The woman behind the wheel, Jenelle Kauffman, is living her dream of owning a business and growing lots of flowers. She also likes helping people who might be intimidated by floral arranging.
“That’s what I hope to do,” she says. “Anyone who even has any inkling of an interest in flowers or flower arranging, they can get their hands on some product, be creative and play with flowers.”
Growing a business
Kauffman is a nurse who has wanted to own her own business for years. She’s also wanted to grow flowers, but her wooded property in Providence Township wasn’t the perfect location for a flower farm.
She comes from a family of gardeners. A great-grandmother grew gorgeous dahlias. Another sold flowers and produce at Lancaster Central Market. Her 96-year-old grandmother, Gladys Brubaker, still tends to roses, and Kauffman’s father is in agriculture.
Watching the floral industry through Instagram, Kauffman saw flower farmers complain that the market was too saturated.
What can I do that’s different? she wondered. What are my resources?
Her grandfather has a large collection of antique cars, and from that came the idea of a flower truck to bring the flowers to customers.
Finding a truck
Kauffman’s first choice was a vintage Volkswagen bus, but they are pricy. So she turned her sights to a 1960s Ford Econoline truck. On bringatrailer.com, a vintage and classic car website, she spotted a 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Rampside truck in great condition that fit the bill. Plus, it was the right color. Kauffman calls it butter.
She bid, sight unseen, and won the truck in December.
Kauffman and her husband, Wes, modified the truck bed to hold flower buckets. They hired a welder to make a metal frame for a canvas cover. The cover protects the cargo at stops and on the drive between locations. She can fill the buckets, roll the sides down and hit the road without worrying about tables or coolers.
They painted the name Olivia on the side, and Kauffman drove to the first stop, just in time for Mother’s Day.
At stops, the truck has often been the star of the show and the backdrop for many pictures.
“I had no idea that the truck would cause so much a response with people,” Kauffman says. “It absolutely creates an experience beyond buying some flowers. For whatever reason, people respond to that vintage pickup.”
So far, the flower truck has gone to Lititz Farmers Market Thursday nights, Lampeter Cafe from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and special events at The Shops at Rockvale.
Having a mobile business is a great option for a new business because it has low overhead, Kauffman says. It also has its challenges, from permits to finding businesses that want a flower truck out front. It’s also been tough to spread the word about the truck’s location. So far, Kauffman shares the truck’s schedule on her website, oliviasflowertruck.com; Instagram, @oliviasflowertruck; and Facebook.
During her first season as a flower farmer, Kauffman built low tunnels at her parents’ property in southern Lancaster County to grow early-season plants like ranunculus and anemones. She also buys from local growers and a flower wholesaler.
The flower truck in early summer is stocked with different types of mums, spiky globe thistle, billy balls and carnations, plus fillers like limonium and bupleurum and leaves like Fat J and monstera. Many are 50 cents or $1 a stem but there are a few stunners: A large pincushion protea is $8, and the giant monstera leaves are $6 each.
Kauffman’s dahlias and zinnias should fill the flower truck through September, perhaps even into October.
Next year, Kauffman hopes to roll out the truck earlier in the spring with daffodils and tulips.
About half of her customers make their own bouquets, and Kauffman helps the other half put something together.
Ivy Adams, all of 3 years old, brought her own money to make her own bouquet at a market in June. Ivy loves flowers and picks little bouquets often, says her mother, Alison Adams, of Mount Joy, who spotted the truck on Instagram.
“I thought she might like to pick her own from the truck,” she says.
The toddler picks a billy ball flower first, a flower that looks like a tiny yellow sun on a stem. She points to a purple carnation next, then a big yellow chrysanthemum and finishes her bouquet with a white mum. Total: $11.11.
Debbie Wier couldn’t get over the gray-blue thistle on the back of the truck.
“They’re so unusual,” says the Brickerville woman. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Wier would have been happy walking away with a bundle of thistles, but she added a feathery astilbe flower Kauffman suggested. Her total? $6.63.
“Look at that,” she says, admiring her work of art.