How a Mill Valley Florist’s Success Bloomed


WHEN GAYLE NICOLETTI was younger, she had two dreams: to have her own business and to live in California. With a little help from an earthquake, both of them have come true.

How did you get started?

I was visiting friends in the South of France and I saw this lady selling flowers by the sea and I thought, “Why can’t I do that in San Francisco?” When I came home to the city, I got a job in one of the Financial District bucket shops — those little flower stands on the corners. A few months later, I found my own space on the Embarcadero, but as I was negotiating for it, the (Loma Prieta) earthquake happened. I lived in the Marina and had to move, so I moved to Sausalito.

And then?

I was living in Mill Valley, where I’d met my husband, and a friend told me about a little space in front of (now closed) Cafe Oggi in Mill Valley. I already had my business plan. That was 21 years ago.

Where did the name come from?

The Financial District bucket shops had names like Blooming Alley, Blooming Arcade, Blooming this, Blooming that, so a friends said, “What about Bloomingayles?”

What mistakes did you make?

I wasted a lot of money learning everything, for example on flowers that died before they were sold.

How much do you work?

Being a florist can seem really glamorous — and part of it is — but the hours are really long. Two to four times a week I go to the flower market in San Francisco at 5 or 6 a.m. and then I’m here all day until 6 or 7.

What’s the hardest thing?

There’s not enough time in the day to do everything and to do it well. I am a wife and a mother, too. There’s just not enough time to socialize and hike and do yoga.

Your husband and son must be very supportive.

Well, they’ve also gotten used to cooking for themselves. My husband is a sweet man. He’s given me everything I’ve always wanted.

What’s the best thing?

I love being my own boss. I love the design work. I love all the people I deal with.

Where does all your energy come from?

The flower business keeps people young. It’s hard work, but it’s hard good work. It’s in nature, it’s outside. Yes, I do complain when it’s pouring rain, but then I remember that I hated being under the fluorescent lights.

Gayle Nicoletti, florist, owner of Bloomingayles, 129 B Miller Avenue, Mill Valley

Bloomingayles, Succulents

Bloomingayles. flower arrangements