Although Chrissy Pirnak’s new plant boutique, Willow + Bloom, just opened Sept. 22, the shop’s seeds were planted in 1996.
“Willow and Bloom actually started really from these cuttings from an almost 30-year-old plant from my grandmother’s funeral,” Pirnak said. “My dad received a plant in 1996 for her funeral, kept it and we have propagated and given that plant to so many people over almost 30 years.”
This multigenerational affinity for plants is in full bloom inside the shop at 2 Sound Ave. in Wading River’s historic district. Pirnak said her father, Robert D’Alessandro, not only supplied some of the cuttings — small portions of plants that will root and mature — but also built her cash register counter and many of the wooden display pieces scattered throughout her store.
At the back of her shop, the plant lover has set up a “plant hospital,” as she described it. Instead of scalpels and IV bags, her hospital, lit by grow lights, boasts cutters and organic soil she mixed herself.
“I have friends and other people who have come in to give me their dying plants,” she explained. “Then I trim them up, I repot them, I try to bring them back to life and then they go on their way.”
When customers come into Willow + Bloom — either for themselves or to purchase a gift — Pirnak will gather intel regarding their experience with keeping plants alive and their personal tastes. For someone who has never successfully kept a plant alive, for example, Pirnak might recommend a prayer plant or a pothos. For a plant lover with a green thumb, she might suggest a pink stromanthe triostar. Regardless of the plant caregiver’s experience level, she will provide a flashcard loaded with instructions on how to keep the plant healthy.
In addition to the greenery, Willow + Bloom boasts handmade boutique items, including soaps, candles, pottery and even handbags made from repurposed military tents.
Before her two children were born, Pirnak worked as the office administrator for Mt. Sinai Congregational Church, handling their food pantry and fundraising efforts. In 2017, she wanted to work again and took up interior decorating.
“I started decorating some local businesses with faux florals, and then it turned into doing some floral arrangements for events and weddings,” she said. “During [the COVID-19 pandemic] I really got into house plants. They just brought me a lot of joy, and they started taking over my house.”
This passion project evolved into what eventually became Willow + Bloom, which started as a pop-up shop at various other businesses, including neighboring storefronts in the hamlet’s historic district, over the past 18 months.
When an available storefront sprouted in Wading River, Pirnak said she jumped at the opportunity to create an indoor space imbued with a sense of the outdoors, particularly “that upstate New York forest type of feel. I wanted a space where everyone came in here and just felt like they were transported into an old world, like cottage core.”
“It started with a tiny little dream in mind,” she added. “And now it came together very quickly, it’s expanded into this [shop]. It’s been a pretty fun journey so far.”
Pirnak attributes much of Willow + Bloom’s success to the Shoreham-Wading River community, where other business owners have not only become customers but welcomed her into their fold and helped her set up her shop.
Later this week, on Friday, Oct., 13, she and fellow shopkeepers around the Wading River Duck Ponds will host a “Witching Hours” event from 5 to 8 p.m., which will feature family-friendly activities and goodies for children.
“I could not ask for a better spot because everyone really looks out for each other,” Pirnak said. “And this whole community down here has been wonderful… I could not ask for a more supportive community.”
As she settles into Wading River’s quaint historic district and keeps her plants warm under grow bulbs throughout the fall and winter, Pirnak said her followers on Instagram @willowandbloomny can expect her shop to evolve. She is currently looking for an organic fertilizer to keep in stock and, come spring, hopes to offer planting workshops, as patrons have already expressed interest in such activities. In the immediate future, she herself hopes to blossom as not only a business owner but as a knowledgeable source of information on more plant species.
“I feel like I could soak in so much,” she said. “I was a novice; I’m learning so much more. My green thumb has gotten much better, and I take pride in that. But if I feel like I don’t know something, I will be completely honest and say, ‘Let me look that up, let’s learn this together.’ I don’t know everything; this is just a passion that I followed for years… But I find that people kind of like that, too, that I’m doing it along with them.”