Peicha Chang + Alyssa Rainville of Vault + Vine
Vault + Vine is a flower shop, café, greenhouse, and floral design studio. They offer a selection of gifts, flowers, and plants within their retail space in East Falls, along with coffee, espresso drinks, teas, and locally-made snacks at their café. As thought leaders in the community, their second floor meeting space hosts workshops and gatherings, including Wellstruck’s Roundtable discussions.
As the founder of Vault + Vine, Peicha Chang has provided Philadelphia with a gathering place and immersive retail experience. The certified B-Corp also provides a la carte floral options for intimate events and elopements, or bulk flowers for clients looking to DIY their own arrangements.
As the Events Manager, Alyssa Rainville heads a team of five designers who create flowers for weddings, parties, corporate events, and all manner of celebrations.
On a personal note, Vault + Vine is always my first floral recommendation to wedding clients, especially those who value sustainability and inclusivity. To find out more about why Vault + Vine stands out to me as inclusive vendors in the wedding industry, here’s a conversation with Alyssa and Peicha.
Shannon: What are the diversity challenges you face, within your business or as an individual?
Alyssa: Everything is so bride-centered, to the extent that there is a cultural expectation of interest from a female party, and an expectation of disinterest (or even disdain) from a male party. This is exclusionary and presumptive, and is simply not a norm that we’re interested in perpetuating. Additionally, referring to clients as “brides” can exclude a population from your focus.
The wedding industry relies on visual marketing. The clients we show cannot only be white and skinny and able-bodied, and conventionally attractive, with clear skin, perfect vision, and straight teeth. Yet, that is often what we see at photo shoots and on the portfolio pages of wedding industry professionals. It’s worth examining why we collectively tend toward showing this as a default, and what our biases and tendencies are, based on who we are and what any of us in the industry personally look like.
Affording luxury services throughout the process of planning an event, and within our realm, the flowers, is something we’re aware of and sensitive toward. We have offerings for clients of all budgets to help widen the range of ability to financially invest in flowers.
Shannon: What is your experience with working with LGBTQ+ clients?
Alyssa: We create flowers for LGBTQ+ couples every year. One of my most fond memories of my early days at Falls Flowers (before our rebrand to Vault + Vine) was creating the arch design for a couple that you photographed: Maura and Nikki at Awbury Arboretum! We always try our best to enter into client communications with a lack of presumption regarding how our clients identify and what they want. We welcome clients as they are, in the stage of life that they are in.
It’s perhaps also important to acknowledge that a lifetime of exploring relationships and sexuality is not necessarily reflected in the time that we interact with our clients. A wedding date is a small snapshot of one stage of your life, and might not be representative of your whole life in the realm of commitment and love.
Shannon: How have you made your business space accessible to the community (for disabled people, neurodivergent people, and LGBTQ+ people)?
Alyssa: To access our front door, there are three stairs and also a ramp that people can use. We also have a small off-street parking lot with an accessible parking spot. Beside the front door of Vault + Vine, there are assorted stickers serving as a small indicator that we are a welcome space for LGBTQ+ people. Our customer restroom is gender neutral, and has a diaper changing table. Our staff restroom is also gender neutral, and we have private areas available for employees who are breastfeeding or pumping. These are small things we already do and have, and we aim to strive for greater accessibility across many fronts.
Shannon: What are some tangible actions you’re taking as a wedding vendor to be more inclusive of underrepresented communities, without tokenizing them?
Alyssa: Our inquiry form is gender neutral, but that’s just a start. When we make operational changes within the Events Department, our small team of six will generally discuss the changes and come to a conclusion together for the most appropriate way to move forward together. This group approach to making changes takes more time than someone unilaterally making a determination, but we have found that it is worth taking our time. We have recently made some edits to our client materials together, but that was just one round of changes, mostly related to pricing. Further changes to discuss will include a re-evaluation of our language.
Shannon: Your company lives sustainably as one of 23 for-profit companies that is a certified B-Corp in Philadelphia and the only one in the events/wedding industry. What made you decide to make social good a priority in your business? How does being certified change the way you do business, possibly compared to other vendors in the same sector?
Peicha: If I’m not utilizing my business for social good, then what’s the point? That’s strictly an opinion, not a judgement! I’ve always believed in the B-Corp motto of “using business as a force for good. If I narrow my definition of “good” to the belief that it’s possible to be a business whose primary focus is not only on profit, but also people and planet (aka, triple bottom line). Our company has always been focused on how we can support and uplift our community, whether that’s our staff, our neighborhood of East Falls, or Philadelphia at large. When the opportunity arose in 2013 to certify as a B-Corp, it just made sense. At that time, the transparency and accountability structure that the B-Corp certification provided was the answer I was seeking to combat the immense amount of greenwashing I was seeing around me. Certifying didn’t change how I do business, rather it provided but a measure of accountability — proof that I was really doing what I said I was doing. Over the years, it’s been a helpful tool to examine and identify how we can continue to improve our business practices.
I honestly have no idea how we differ from the way other events/wedding industry businesses work, since my M.O. is to focus solely on my own work. (Sometimes it’s a detriment — I often have no idea what’s going on within the industry.) More recently, we’ve chosen not to re-certify as a B-Corp. There are many factors behind this choice, but the primary reason is that I feel that B-Lab (the company that administers the B-assessment and issues the B-Corp certifications) has really chosen to tailor their approach and process towards corporate institutions (Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia, for example), rather than small businesses like ours. While I don’t disagree with their philosophy, I don’t believe that their current approach to B-Corp certification is beneficial (and, truthfully, feels harmful) to many small businesses like us, who either didn’t originally build our business model around the assessment, or have a small army of HR & financial professionals to research and provide the documentation required for certification. I’m working on writing an article about this and will send the link when it’s complete!
Shannon: On the topic of sustainability, the seasonal flowers used in your floral arrangements are grown in and around Philadelphia at small farms. Any products or flowers not locally produced or grown are sourced responsibly and ethically. What does the behind-the-scenes process of that look like and what are the roadblocks you’ve run into when building a sustainable model and framework within the floral industry?
Alyssa: The years we have invested into building relationships with our farmers have been instrumental in how we center environmental sustainability within our work. Purchasing as many flowers as possible from farmers, rather than multinational floral wholesalers, is a way we aim to shorten the supply chain. We focus our purchasing within our local community in any possible instance. This requires a level of flexibility from our clients. We don’t guarantee any particular flowers, whether or not they are in season because, ultimately, we are beholden to nature and the irregularities that come with using a highly perishable product as our medium. Clients that give us free reign to work within a broad color palette are opening themselves up to the full force of our creativity, which is ideal! We know that this might mean we are not the ideal florist for people who have honed in on something extremely specific, and that’s ok.
Minor challenges can arise in communication, local flower availability (color and quantity), and client expectations, but most of these are issues that we can mitigate before they become problematic. A greater challenge is the educational component regarding the cost of flowers, and of our services. A challenge in the sustainability of event flowers (and the event industry in general!) relates to the volume of our workload, and how to effectively manage that to stave off burnout.
Shannon: What’s your favorite part about working in the Philadelphia wedding industry?
Alyssa: The network of vendors we’ve managed to befriend and lean on over the years. In seasons of change and moments of frustration or panic, our vendor friends have come to our aid and offered unconditional support and enthusiasm. We have so much gratitude for fact that we get to do what we do with some of the most caring, passionate people out there.
Shannon: What are you listening to?
Alyssa: Fair Folk Podcast by Danica Child aims to showcase folk tradition to life, in highlighting pre-Christian and neo-pagan spirituality and myth, animism, European musical traditions, and other related topics.
Tomorrow Will Be Great, hosted by my friends Julia and Elyse. Julia is the shop owner of clothing boutique Rennes in Old City. She and Elyse share their thoughts on a different weekly topic related to small business operations. Topics in the past that I’ve enjoyed include perceived success and financing, and “The Art of Staying Open” as a brick and mortar retailer.
Shannon: What’s a pop-culture plug you’d like to share?
Alyssa: I’ve lent my copy of Pleasure Activism by adrienne marie brown to three friends already, and encourage everyone to buy a copy. It’s going to knock your socks off. Any poems and prayers written by author Dane Kuttler have been a balm to my heart in recent times of turmoil.
Shannon: Who are some of your favorite Instagram follows?