If you've spent any time leisurely strolling through Old Town Alexandria, you'll understand when we say Helen Olivia is quintessentially "Old Town." The floral shop owned by husband and wife Craig Noah and Marianne Raub at 128 N. Pitt Street is quaint, friendly and charmingly down-to-earth.
When we stopped by last week, Marianne was leading one of her monthly design workshops. Ten attendees were learning to make "long and low" arrangements for the Thanksgiving table. Marianne's advice -- in case you're hosting dinner at your townhouse this year -- was to make a centerpiece that is no more than 8-12 inches high and tight so that it doesn't interrupt the line of sight or conversations of people seated across from each other. If DIY is outside your comfort zone, the shop's popular mini trios are an affordable option to dress up the table but still leave room for food and drink.
Marianne is the creative genius behind Helen Olivia's lush designs, while Craig is an experienced restaurant manager with a keen sense of customer service. The shop's signature style element is to include at least one special bloom in every arrangement, like a vanda orchid or glory lillies.
When opening Helen Olivia almost seven years ago, Marianne and Craig targeted Old Town because they were looking for a walkable neighborhood with a lot of foot traffic (we love that about Old Town, too). The couple has a fond appreciation for their local customers, most of whom they know by name. "We couldn't imagine having a business anywhere else," Marianne told us. "The people of Old Town are great about supporting small businesses. Some neighbors even went so far as to send flowers to friends as a way to introduce them to our shop."
During our visit, we learned that EYA and Helen Olivia share a focus on being green. Inspired by family vacations to eco-friendy Oregon, Helen Olivia's owners minimized the shop's environmental footprint by cutting its use of both paper and petroleum-based floral foam in half. They also purchased a tricycle -- nicknamed Petal Power -- as their delivery vehicle for Old Town orders. Does it get any quainter than that?
If you live in Old Town, check out Helen Olivia's Thanksgiving decor this weekend; and if you don't, consider stopping by Helen Olivia and our Old Town Commons sales center to get a better feel for what Old Town living is all about.
128 N. Pitt St., Alexandria, VA
Hours: M-F 8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.; Sat 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.