Welcome to our series, Hello Denver, My Name is… where we profile different people in Denver you probably don’t know, but should. Get ready to meet painters, dancers, comedians, musicians, designers and just generally fascinating people that help make Denver awesome.
The bright pink house on South Pearl Street with lime green trim has an awful lot of flowers out front, and that’s just the way owner Emily Rodriguez likes it. The Ruffly Rose has been frequented by South Pearl Farmer’s Market shoppers, engaged couples looking to order beautiful bouquets and ordinary people who gravitate to the pop of pink nestled in Wash Park for nearly a decade, but we wondered who was the brains behind all the flowers and frill. Rodriguez is a Colorado native whose love for delicately crafting her floral designs originated in Fort Collins. Today, she juggles raising a family and making sure her customers smile when they receive one of her many exquisite arrangements. Her lawn has to be watered and manicured too.
303 Magazine: How did you get started as a florist and open The Ruffly Rose?
Emily Rodriguez: I always knew I wanted to have a store of some kind in high school, but I didn’t know what. I was living in Fort Collins and going to CSU (Colorado State University) and I started working at a flower shop there and it was such an awesome experience. The ladies took me under their wing and I knew this was what I wanted to do. After I got married, I moved back to Denver and worked at another store for about a year and it was still a dream of mine and I just told myself, “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.” I knew that if a store were to open, it had to be on South Pearl. I’ve always loved this street ever since I was a little. There’s something just about it — its charm. Then something opened up on Pearl and it just all worked out.
303: Was the address for The Ruffly Rose a store originally or just a house you acquired?
ER: So the house was built in 1880. It was a farmhouse. There was a family that lived here for a really, really long time and then it was a chiropractor I think before I moved in. It was set up like a doctor’s office.
303: Did you paint the exterior pink and green?
ER: Yep. We wanted to let people know we were here!
303: What was the first professional bouquet you ever made and who was it for?
ER: I’ve done a lot of weddings for people. They’re all just so fun. I love doing those. It’s fun to just meet with the couples and hear their vision and we just feel so honored that they trust us to execute that vision. We get to see how excited they are the day of their wedding and they get to see it all come to life. It’s also always fun when you get orders for the Broncos or Nuggets. It’s random and mostly seasonal [bouquets]. We take it pretty seriously.
303: What appeals to you most about the flower industry?
ER: Flowers bring so much joy to everyone. When you make an arrangement, everyone smiles. And it doesn’t even matter if it’s a big arrangement. They smile at one little flower. I love just seeing the power that it has. And for us, it’s been really awesome since we just had our eighth birthday. We’ve gotten to do flowers for someone’s first date, and then their wedding flowers, and then we’re bringing flowers to the hospital because they just had their first baby and then their anniversary. Getting to truly be a part of people’s lives through all these life events — that’s my favorite part. It’s this neighborhood and this city and the support they have shown us. It’s overwhelming how awesome it’s been. Our customers are great.
303: There are not a lot of florists in Denver. Especially in this area.
ER: Flower shops are a dying industry and it’s pretty sad. It’s the grocery stores being able to sell super cheap flowers because they have their own farms. A lot of flower shops have stopped selling flowers and started only selling gifts or are shutting their doors and are doing events only. It’s kind of a thing of the past, but I don’t want it to be. I want people to keep coming here.
303: Where do you source your flowers?
ER: We don’t grow anything ourselves just with Colorado being Colorado, but with that said, when we can support Colorado flower farmers, we do. One wholesaler we use has a greenhouse so a lot of their flowers are Colorado-grown.
303: What’s your favorite flower?
ER: I love poppies and ranunculus.
303: Define the “frill” part of your store.
ER: A lot of people don’t know that we have really cool gift items in the store. We really try to source things made by smaller artisans. The “frill” is just gifts, but we have jewelry and luxury bath items and accessories and fun little things to accent your flowers with. Some people just come for the gifts.
303: Why is it okay to be girly?
ER: I feel like it’s been really awesome seeing little girls that’ll ride by on their little scooters and we’ll hear them outside asking “Mommy and daddy does a princess live there?” but even to older people like older women and older men — the elderly, they’ll come in and they’re like “Oh my gosh.” Seeing the response of some guys too — some guys will say, “This is my favorite place.” Even though it’s girly, I feel like the response that we’ve gotten from everyone makes them feel like they can come into this flower world and it’s a breath of fresh air while they’re in there. So why is it okay to be girly? Well, why not?
303: If you were a flower, what flower would you be?
ER: Well, my middle name is Rose, so I feel like roses have always been super significant in my life. I’d be a light pink rose.
303: What flowers are clichéd that you think are coming back?
ER: Oh yeah. People have given carnations such a bad name because they’ve dyed them or put them in a bud vase of a baby’s breath. There are some really interesting varieties of carnations and it’s really interesting. We’ve done little tests where we’ll put them in arrangements and people will be like, “I love that flower. What is that?” And we’re like, “That’s a carnation.” They can be pretty. They’re making a comeback. If you’re a good florist and you’re good at what you do, you can incorporate any flower.
303: How do you find inspiration for your bouquets?
ER: I think it’s just my own aesthetic. Flowers are a natural product and some of them come in and each bunch can be different from week to week. Obviously, during peak season, they can look bigger and more beautiful than in their off-season. Sometimes seeing a certain flower can provide such great inspiration.
303: Do you ever dye flowers?
ER: We’ve gotten flowers that are dyed. They’re not our favorite to use I will say that. Sometimes customers request that and we’ve got to make it work. Everyone’s perception of beauty is different and that’s something that we’ve come to realize.
303: If you could make a bouquet for someone living or dead, who would it be for and what flowers would be in it? What message would you want to send?
ER: I would make an arrangement for the owner of the flower shop that I worked at in Fort Collins. She’s amazing and she’s retired now. Judy was the owner and I just really admire her and her ability to handle the business and her family at the same time. It’s hard. I have two kids. Just seeing her with her family and juggling her responsibilities as a mother and a grandmother and how she ran her business is such an inspiration to me. During times when I feel like this is a lot, I know it can be done. She’s done it and she handled it with such grace. She took me in and was such a role model for me. It would be cool to make her an arrangement just to say thank you. The bouquet would be my favorite flowers — ranunculus, peonies and poppies in light pinks and oranges.
303: This last question is from the previous interviewee in this series, Hunter Leggitt: “Do you think we’ll be able to correct global warming?”
ER: I hope so.
The Ruffly Rose is located at 1611 South Pearl St., Denver, CO 80210 and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
All photography by Karson Hallaway.
Correction: the article was updated to clarify the house located at 1611 South Pearl St. in Denver was built in 1880, not 1980.