A new artisan floral business is coming to Brilliant Avenue in Aspinwall, thanks to a Fox Chapel woman with a passion for artistic floral expression.
Anne Dickson, 41, is the force behind Fox and the Fleur, a custom florist specializing in weddings, events and holiday decorating and more.
Dickson secured a three-year lease at 105 Brilliant Ave., with plans to open in late May.
The building formerly housed a men’s work-wear business.
She said Aspinwall provides a central location to the Fox Chapel area; it is convenient and close to her home, and numerous female entrepreneurs have shops in the borough. She chose her business name to honor the Fox Chapel area and France.
“Fox Chapel is where I live, and my mom is French, and I absolutely love France, so “fleur” is a nod to that. I like the masculine and feminine play of it too,” Dickson said.
Dickson, 41, said she was inspired growing up by the female gardeners in her life, specifically her mother Eileen Muse and her mother-law, Mary Dickson, a horticulturalist and award-winning floral designer.
“As a young kid I remember dreaming of having some kind of store,” Dickson said. “A place where I could be surrounded by beautiful things and share my love of art and design with people.”
She said her late father, David D’Appolonia, always encouraged her to start her own business.
“I think he’s with me. He would be over the moon,” Dickson said.
From Fashion to Flowers
Dickson graduated from Shadyside Academy in 1999 and earned a communications degree from Denison University in Ohio in 2003.
She moved to New York City after graduation and worked in the marketing departments for Tommy Hilfiger and Dolce & Gabanna. She married her high school sweetheart, Andrew Dickson, in 2006. The couple resided in New York.
She said she was offered a job at Gucci, but her father’s sudden death at 62 changed their plans.
“I felt the urgent need to be close to my mom in Pittsburgh,” said Dickson, who moved back to Point Breeze in 2007.
The Dicksons moved to Fox Chapel that same year with Anne leaving the fashion-world for the stay-at-home-mom scene.
At the time she had two young boys — she now has three boys under the age of 10 — and Dickson said the beautiful perennial gardens at her new home provided some of the inspiration of Fox and the Fleur.
“I spent a lot of time in my garden at that time, calmed and inspired by flowers and nature,” Dickson said. “I started cutting my garden and dropping floral arrangements at the doorsteps of family and friends, simply as a token of kindness and love.”
A friend took notice of Dickson’s floral flair and asked her to create floral pieces for a party.
“Someone at that dinner party got my number and asked me to arrange flowers for her daughter’s bridal shower. One thing led to another and a business slowly and organically grew over time, ” Dickson said.
A humble start
She opened her business in 2016, working first out of her garage. Her first paid floral gig was a wedding at a private home.
Weddings make up almost a third of her business, with an average wedding budget for flowers from between $5,000 to $20,000.
“Other events like bridal showers, rehearsal dinners and parties make up another third of my business and holiday decorating, cut floral orders and container gardening make up the rest,” Dickson said.
In 2021, Dickson installed pop-up floral displays on her own around the Pittsburgh region as community gifts to brighten the spirits of folks during the pandemic and offer joy to strangers.
“They’re intended to bring moments of unexpected joy to people through random acts of kindness and beauty—there’s so much power in that. We can all use some kindness,” Dickson said.
Flower pop-ups sprouted at The Children’s Institute, Tree of Life Synagogue, Lawrenceville, The Strip District, Aspinwall, the Carnegie Museum, even in trash cans in Oakland and Sewickley.
With the Carnegie Museum’s permission, Dickson decked out its statues on Forbes Avenue as a charitable outreach.
“We are honored she chose our space to bring so much joy to Forbes Avenue,” said Betsy Momich, director of communications for Carnegie Museums. “It was a beautiful contribution to our stately but beautiful building. We were so impressed. She brought so much joy.”
Dickson said she plans more pop-up installations in the future.
Dickson and her floral team and volunteers often gather blooms after a big wedding or functions and donate them to The Hillman Cancer Center, local hospitals or give them to family and friends.
“We hate to see all of those beautiful flowers sitting in an empty ballroom after an event,” Dickson said.
Dickson said plans include creating a more organized system for re-purposing florals to people or communities who could use a “pick-me-up.”
Fox and the Fleur temporarily operates from a corporate cafeteria space in RIDC Park in O’Hara.
“We look forward to having a space where people can stop in and enjoy the beauty of flowers,” Dickson said.
Fox and the Fleur will offer floral pickups at the Brilliant Avenue store and delivery in the Pittsburgh area but will not provide deliveries nationwide.
“It will be a bit of one-stop-shopping, and I envision a Parisian and sophisticated feel,” Dickson said.
A team of five floral designers will create arrangements in the rear of the 1,200 square-foot space. Customers will be able to view them working through a large window. A large cooler will keep flowers fresh.
“People can actually see us floral arranging and seeing designs happening. People are always curious about what it takes to make flowers for a wedding,” Dickson said.
The front section of the store will offer a huge table covered in flowers where customers can create a custom, pick-by-the-stem arrangement.
Fox and the Fleur will open in May offering a studio/workspace with limited hours, with plans to open in the fall with a regular schedule.
Nouveau PGH and Dovecote owner Jessica Rehling Vukmir owns two businesses on Brilliant Avenue.
Vukmir said most of the businesses along Brilliant are owned and operated by women, and she welcomes the news of a florist opening in Aspinwall.
“There’s definitely a lot of girl power in the Wall (Aspinwall), and we’re excited to welcome another awesome entrepreneur,” Vukmir said.
Dana Hanna of Fox Chapel has collaborated with Dickson on several, large charity events.
“We wanted the flowers to embody the light, energy, power and beauty behind our mission,” Hanna said.
Hanna described Dickson’s floral designs as “stunning.”
Dickson said working in the floral business takes a lot of hustle.
“I think my time in NYC and the fashion industry trained me well as an entrepreneur—staying calm under pressure,” Dickson said.
Dickson said she has no formal floral design training, but she designs from the heart.
“Arranging flowers is a meditation for me. I’m right in the moment and the rest of the world falls away,” Dickson said. “Creating something beautiful and getting to share it with people is an absolute joy.”