Kaitlin Orner, 33, has brought a bit of Eden to 6352 Germantown Ave. with her new plant store and flower shop, Pomelo Flowers and Gifts. The word “pomelo,” a big Asian citrus fruit as …
Kaitlin Orner, 33, has brought a bit of Eden to 6352 Germantown Ave. with her new plant store and flower shop, Pomelo Flowers and Gifts. The word “pomelo,” a big Asian citrus fruit as well as the word for “grapefruit” in some Spanish-speaking countries, suggests the shop’s exuberance and exotica.
Plants range from tiny succulents in pale colors to the deep green of unusual varieties of snake plants to the Christmas tree, a visual delight with decorations that include plants and vintage Christmas balls.
The lush palette of Pomelo’s flower arrangements — peach, rose, wine, and more — with names like “The Blessing” and “You’re as Cuddly as a Cactus,” transport one, if not to paradise then to its anteroom.
“I’d been looking for a [permanent] place for years,” said Orner, who shared a space at 20th and Locust for her pop-up store, “but I had to have lots of light for the plants and good foot traffic.” Located at the southwest corner of Germantown and Duval, Pomelo has windows on two sides. “I also wanted to be near home,” said Orner, who lives near the Germantown Cricket Club.
Before opening Pomelo, Orner gained experience as a buyer, vendor and inventory manager. “When I graduated from Temple in 2011, the job market wasn’t good,” she said, “so I worked in retail. I’ve also done in-home consultations on plants. I pointed out which plant would thrive in a certain place and what kind of lighting it needed and which plants are pet-safe.”
Raised in picturesque Boiling Springs, a stop on the Appalachian Trail in south central Pennsylvania, Orner had an early introduction to selling plants. “My grandparents had nurseries,” she said. “When I was little, they let me poke a hole in soil where they would drop in a seed.” Orner came east to attend West Chester University, where she earned a BA in social work in 2009. Two years later, she graduated from Temple University with an MSW.
Orner weathered odd events in launching Pomelo. “I got a key to the building in March on the day that non-essential businesses closed down,” she said. Instead of staying home, she worked on the shop. “I put down this floor and worked on that wall,” she said, pointing to a wall of exposed brick.” She also furnished the store with found items, including a desk, a table and more. “I feel good about giving those things a second life.”
An accident halted Orner’s progress. “I was putting up a shelf when it fell on my head and gave me a concussion,” she said. “I had to go to the hospital, but friends stepped in to help me. They made food for me. I wanted to thank them by making bouquets, but when I posted them on Instagram, people wanted to buy them. I made 83 arrangements in two days.” Flower arrangements have become a key part of Pomelo, and plants are in demand with Covid-19. “A lot of people want to make their space feel greener. Others purchase plants because they help to purify the air.”
Besides opening the shop, Orner found time to channel her artistry into activism. She took part in a project that involved decorating U.S. mailboxes with flowers to encourage people to mail in their ballots. She also joined a team of florists who decorated two flatbed trucks with flowers for “Joy to the Polls,” an initiative in which musicians performed on the trucks to entertain voters waiting in line to cast their ballots on Nov. 3. “Pennock Flower Wholesalers graciously donated the flowers.”
Lately Orner focused on Christmas and Chanukah, also carrying gifts, many of them hyper-local, made by artisans who work within walking distance. “One of them is an Indigenous craftsman a few blocks away.” Gifts include handmade jewelry, sage bundles, brook pots, tree kits to start growing a blue spruce or American sycamore, etc.
Some kooky items provide smiles, like onesies that say, “Keep Philly Weird.” Orner’s own card company, Groundswell Cards, includes a card with a unicorn that says, “You’re my kind of corny.” Another has a snail toting a red balloon that says, “Sorry I’m a little late.”
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