High time for tea and flowers

After 30 years in Vancouver, Coventry Gardens of London moves to Camas

The sign at Coventry Gardens of London gets right to the point: customers will get a British-inspired experience when they come to this floral design studio, now located in downtown Camas.

Fresh flowers floating in a bowl greet visitors at the Coventry Gardens of London floral design studio on Friday, March 1.

British greeting cards for sale at the downtown Camas Coventry Gardens of London floral design studio.

Sandy Bakker, the founder of Coventry Gardens of London, sits inside her daughter, Rachel Bakker's, new floral design studio with Rachel's 12-year-old dog, Coco, on Friday, March 1.

Coventry Gardens of London offers a curated selection of hard-to-find British, Irish and Scottish teas, biscuits and gifts, including the Taylors of Harrogate teas and Nairn's oat crackers, pictured here.

The Coventry Gardens of London floral studio in Camas is true to its 40-year history with its own version of the classic "Keep Calm and Carry On" sign paying tribute to original owner Sandy Bakker's British homeland, and the silk roses on the right a reminder of Sandy's beginnings in the floral business, when she and her two daughters made hundreds of silk roses in the late 1970s and early 1980s to sell to grocery stores in Oregon and Washington.

One of the European gardens available for purchase at Coventry Gardens of London in Camas.

Tea sets for sale at the downtown Camas Coventry Gardens of London floral design studio.

Coventry Gardens of London, a longtime Vancouver-area flower shop with a British twist, recently moved to Camas and owner Rachel Bakker says she couldn’t be happier.

“People here have a philosophy of supporting locally owned businesses. It’s important to them,” Bakker says of the Camas-Washougal community.

When Bakker moved away from the shop’s high-traffic Mill Plain Boulevard location in October 2018, she initially worried her loyal customers would have to drive a few extra miles to find her. Instead, she discovered most of her regulars had been driving from their Camas-Washougal homes to the Vancouver flower shop — which her mother, Sandy, founded in Oregon in 1978 — for many years.

“They were from here, so moving to Camas was actually more convenient for them,” Bakker says. “I would say about 80 percent of our customers were from this area.”

One customer, who had long driven to Vancouver to shop at Coventry Gardens, works at Temple Financial in Camas, now located directly across the street from Bakker’s flower studio.

The move also meant the younger Bakker, who purchased the business from her mother a few years ago, could downsize and concentrate on what made her happiest: providing quality floral arrangements at reasonable prices.

“I went from 1,600 square feet to 500 square feet,” she said.

The smaller space meant Bakker could take online as well as retail orders, design the vast majority of arrangements herself and make her own deliveries.

“I like being able to make the delivery myself because I know what the customer wanted and I can wish them a happy anniversary or birthday,” Bakker says.

Sandy Bakker, a native of England, operated Coventry Gardens in Vancouver for 30 years and had a thriving business making silk roses for grocery stores in Oregon and Washington for several years before that.

When the elder Bakker opened her flower shop in Vancouver in the late 1980s, she also focused on imported food and gifts from her home country. Over the past three decades, many Brits living in Clark County have sought out Coventry Gardens for its variety of British teas, foods and gifts.

With her move to the smaller Camas space, Bakker has downsized the British offerings a bit, but still sources British teas, biscuits and gift items that aren’t easy to find in the Vancouver-Portland area.

When customers come into her Camas floral studio, located at 602 N.E. Third Ave., near the Subway sandwich shop in Camas, one of the first things Bakker asks is, “Would you like some tea?”

The idea is to give customers a relaxing flower shop experience, in which they can explain their floral needs and look at the fresh flowers available that week (Bakker orders flowers according to her custom orders to ensure her arrangements are as fresh as possible), and then relax at the shop’s window-side table with a cup of British tea and a British magazine while Bakker designs their floral arrangement. Customers may even get to visit with Bakker’s 12-year-old Boston Terrier, Coco, or her mother’s dog, Sherlock, who was a staple at the Vancouver flower shop for many years.

The shop also has an assortment of European dish gardens available for sale, and a variety of ribbons and accessories for students hoping to create the perfect corsage for a high school dance or special event.

Bakker, the mother of a 22 year old son and an 18 year old daughter, says she especially enjoys working with the teenagers who come to her shop before their winter formals and proms.

“So many of my Mountain View (High School) kids have followed me here,” Bakker says. “I love helping them find the right color ribbon and flowers. The boys will say, ‘I’m not allowed to see the dress, but I have a picture of the color.’ I have a lot of ribbons, but if I don’t have the right color, I often go out and find it for them. They’re so much fun to work with.”

On her business website — coventrygardensflorist.com — Bakker says she spent a lifetime watching her mother design and run a flower shop business, so it’s no surprise she loves her job.

“I believe the giving and receiving of flowers to be a sentimental way to experience and honor life’s joys and sorrows,” she writes on the Coventry Gardens website.

Although most elements of her move to Camas have been positive, Bakker says she is having some trouble communicating her new retail hours to customers, especially those who find her through a Google search.

The problem is that, to concentrate on high-quality design and make her own deliveries — while still offering a walk-in retail space and 24/7 online orders — Bakker has had to limit the hours she is available at the shop. Google, however, doesn’t love it when businesses have different “walk in” hours, so it often looks as if Bakker is available at the studio when she’s really just available online or via telephone.

The walk-in studio hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., on Saturdays. Bakker also has extended hours for event consultations and deliveries. She takes online orders as well as walk-in requests, and delivers to most areas of the Camas-Washougal area, as well as to three zip codes in eastern Vancouver.

Have questions about arrangements, online orders or deliveries? Visit coventrygardensflorist.com, come to the studio at 602 N.E. Third Ave., or contact Bakker via email at coventrygardens@outlook.com or by telephone at 360-254-4648.