Since 1977, this charmed flower shop has continued to flourish despite a history of previous owners, locations, and reinventions. The space, now on Denver’s Old South Gaylord Street, radiates an oft-perceived energy of its own and offers a nostalgic sensory experience to patrons old and new.
Nikki Depew modestly insists she had no experience in floral design, even though her parents were the largest carnation growers in the country and her grandfather was renowned for his award-winning hybridized dahlias. But when she took ownership of The Tended Thicket, a richly storied florist and gift boutique in downtown Denver, it was clear that flowers were in her blood. After agreeing to continue the shop’s distinguished legacy at the request of previous owner Wendy James—a longtime family friend—she would soon come to realize it was the perfect fit.
A self-professed leader and hard worker, Nikki was already in the midst of a new endeavor after making the decision to leave a demanding career in social work. As luck would have it, she was pursuing an opportunity at a landscape wholesaler just across the street from The Tended Thicket at the time. She says she could always sense just how much the little shop was loved.
“There is an energy about this place you feel immediately as you walk in,” Nikki affirms. “I can’t explain it, but it has a life of its own.” The store first opened in the fall of 1977 as Willow Root Hollow (located on the corner of Old South Gaylord Street) and was inspired by an emerging European style that celebrated free-flowing, loose flower arrangements bursting with a mix of unusual varieties. Owner Michael Clark and his partner, Lauri Brew, both designers for a local florist, set out to emulate a European flower market, replete with buckets spilling over with multicolored blooms and bouquets. A year before, the pair had begun experimenting with this style by crafting unique designs for a local Renaissance festival, Denver department stores, and seasonal flower and gift shows. Their refreshing natural arrangements included homemade potpourri in apothecary jars, dried and silk grapevine wreaths, bulbs planted in mossy clay pots, and custom Christmas wreaths, fresh flowers, and greenery displays for interior designers.
The shop closed briefly in 1979 when Michael moved to California to be near his family. Within a year, Lauri, along with her mother, Betty, began again under the name of The Tended Thicket and later reopened in a downtown location in The Cosmopolitan Hotel. Thus began a series of more renovations, two location changes, and yet another owner before the well-loved shop fell into Nikki’s hands in the fall of 2000.
A music-filled, feel-good environment with enormous flower coolers, mixed bouquets, and garden-style gifts—scented candles, fragrant bath soaps, stone statuary, wreaths, herbal teas, and decorative accessories—the shop has always offered customers an escape from the everyday, a respite of visual beauty and aromatherapy.
“Our displays are amazing when I compare them to other shops, and they are so much a part of our appeal,” explains Nikki, who takes a hands-on approach to the store’s visual merchandising. “It’s as therapeutic for me as it is for the customers who come in,” she admits.
Arriving at the wholesale flower market every Monday morning, Nikki surveys what she calls a “gigantic cooler of beauty” to select the exquisite fresh-cut varieties she knows will delight her customers. On any given day, ever-changing and unexpected offerings such as Oriental lilies, French tulips, forsythia branches, and hyacinths can be found at The Tended Thicket and continue to entice its distinctive clientele.
“There are few stores that evoke so much feeling,” notes Nikki. “As strange as it sounds, I am constantly in service to this wonderful shop. There’s an incentive and an important responsibility to keep it going—it brings me a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.”
Text Jeanne de Lathouder
To learn more about The Tended Thicket, see page 76 of the March/April 2011 issue of Victoria.