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San Francisco

Meet The Petaler, Duboce Triangle's Hidden Floral Business

"The store is cute and has a good presence, and I feel badly that it's always shut," says Rebekah Northway, owner of Duboce Triangle floral design business The Petaler.

The storefront in question, located at 773 14th St., is used as a space for her floral team to construct arrangements or come together for a break—but it's usually not open to the general public. 

The Petaler primarily provides flower arrangements for restaurants and cafes across the city, including Zuni, Nopa and Sightglass Coffee. But it also handles a wide range of events, like home birthday parties and weddings.

Northway moved to San Francisco from Santa Fe 17 years ago, and now lives around the corner from her shop. "I love the strong, rooted community. I know there's a lot of people that lived here forever," she said. "It's so central, so convenient, it's comfortable and pretty."

She got started in the service business many years ago, when she worked for a restaurant and volunteered to get flowers for her employer. The name of her business is a play on words; people who went door-to-door to sell their goods were called peddlers, and Northway married the idea with flower petals.

When she was looking for a good logo to follow suit, she found inspiration from a tattoo shop right across the street from where she used to live. "I went in there, and a tattoo artist drew the logo for me," Northway said.

Finding her space was equally serendipitous. "I lived around the corner for the past four years, and I just saw this space on 14th Street empty two years ago," she said. "I always loved it when it was still a bike shop. It has the cute little half door that opens, the little Dutch door."

Though its doors are rarely open, neighbors often recognize The Petaler from its truck, which is frequently parked around the neighborhood. "When I got the truck, I was looking for something that was tall enough that I could keep big products upright in water," Northway explains.

Unfortunately, street parking took its toll: Northway had to repaint the truck because someone drew graffiti on it three times, and it was also the victim of a hit-and-run. She now prefers to park it in a secured lot. 

Photo: The Petaler/Instagram

Northway loves the neighborhood, but acknowledges it has its challenges. Someone once stole her purse while she was unloading the truck, and "sometimes there's [trash] all over the street," she noted, which kept her from placing a bench in front of the store.

Then, there are the struggles every San Francisco small business owner faces: "the increasingly difficult costs and business requirements, being able to pay people a livable wage, parking."

Northway currently works with four people out of The Petaler's space, and while it's usually closed to the public, she'll occasionally open the doors to feature other designers and sellers, or to host pop-up events. She did an event for Valentine's Day, and a two-week market at the holidays.

Recently, she's been considering opening the shop on a more regular basis—possibly one day a week, starting around the holidays. But for now, "even if we aren't open, neighbors can always contact us. Since I live so close, they can always get in touch for any sorts of floral needs they have."

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