Most Americans in Paris swoon over the city’s macaroons and croissants. But when Sandra Sigman lived in the City of Light, she found herself wandering the ancient streets of her neighborhood in search of flowers.
“My mom would say to me, ‘Go see what the flower shops are doing,’” says Sigman, who lived in Paris in the 1980s as a professional figure skater with Holidays on Ice. She’d report back to her mother about the Parisian florists wearing “gorgeous black aprons,” working on their feet in tiny shops that were packed to bursting with blooms. The flowers in these shops were arranged by color, rather than type. Clusters of pink roses, freesia, peonies, and tulips were all crammed together, and not tucked away in a cooler, but out for everyone to see. The florists did most of the arranging right in their hands, working by sight and feeling. Sigman’s favorite shop was called Les Fleurs.
Sigman learned flower arranging at her mother’s knee, helping in her mother’s Worcester flower shop from the time she was a little girl. She watched her mother push the envelope of traditional floral arranging, doing things like cutting mint and other herbs from her own garden and adding them to centerpieces.
“She would use flowers in interesting ways,” Sigman says. “She was always trying new things.”
But when Sigman’s mother’s breast cancer came out of remission, she decided it was time to close her beloved flower shop. Sigman came home to help her family, and also to start her own flower shop, Les Fleurs, which opened in Andover in January 1989. But Sigman’s mother died in February. She never got to see Les Fleurs.
Sigman didn’t know anyone in Andover. But with her father’s help, she launched her new business. She’d create the bouquets, and her father would deliver them for her.
“I was 22,” Sigman says. “I said, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose.’”
More than 25 years later, Les Fleurs is one of the North Shore’s most celebrated flower shops, appearing regularly on lists like Best of Boston and The Knot’s Best of Weddings. In November 2014, the shop completed an expansion of its Barnard Street location, doubling in size to about 2,400 square feet and adding an event planning consultation room, a larger walk-in cooler, and a more spacious showroom.
Les Fleurs is a successful business, but it’s also a kind of floral love letter to Sigman’s mother, one that takes inspiration from backyard gardens, lovely heirloom de?cor, and those beautiful Parisian flower shops. Just as chefs are increasingly embracing farm-to-table eating, Sigman favors farm-to-table floral design.
“The style we gravitate toward is a lot [like] the garden—loose and airy,” Sigman says. She loves incorporating elements like fuzzy, muted-green lamb’s ear foliage and French lavender from her own garden in floral arrangements. The results are designs that are organic-looking yet sophisticated: simple, unfussy, and “very French,” Sigman says. It’s a style that customers love: The Les Fleurs team is slated to do more than 150 weddings and events this year.
In addition to focusing on the flowers themselves, Sigman and her team scour thrift shops, Parisian flea markets, and the Brimfield Antique Show looking for interesting and one-of-a-kind containers that take Les Fleurs’ floral arrangements out of staid and everyday vases and into wheelbarrows or vintage bikes or antique glass vials.
In addition to her signature style, Sigman’s team of floral designers, including Les Fleurs’ director of weddings and events, Kerianne Nelson, is central to the shop’s success. Sigman prefers that her staff come to Les Fleurs untrained, training them herself and encouraging them to think outside the traditional box.
“Sometimes the formal training gets in the way of the passion,” she says. “I want them to come with a positive attitude, an open mind, and a love for flowers.”
That love for flowers is clear in all of Les Fleurs’ work. Sigman’s love for her clients is also clear. After more than 25 years, she is still moved every day by the way people use flowers, in happy times and sad times, to share love, offer sympathy for loss, or say thank you.
“We sometimes tear up when we hear some of the things that people write,” she says. “People are trying to convey kindness…that I’m thinking of you no matter what is happening in your life.” lesfleurs.com