(photo by Jenifer Kaplan Photo Courtesy)

DOWNTOWN — Sometimes, the occasion calls for flowers and fast, but preferably not the ones proffered by peddlers at the base of freeway exits.

For those moments, the Westside has The Flower Truck, a new spin on what has become a standard of mobile convenience, the vending truck.

Jenifer Kaplan, proprietress and principal truck driver, launched the venture in mid-February, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

“I was getting ready, getting ready, getting ready,” Kaplan said. “Obviously it would be foolish not to launch by Valentine’s Day. It put a fire under me.”

Some background — Kaplan worked, and continues to work, for local retailer and designer Lisa Kline, but she’s had entrepreneurial dreams since her early 20s.

She’d come up with business plans, but her ideas never seemed to go anywhere. Kaplan has a word for that: Wherewithal.

“It takes the wherewithal,” she said. “I had the idea for a long time, but it wasn’t until I found the truck that it began to take shape.”

The truck, affectionately dubbed Lola, served as an ice cream truck in a former life. Kaplan snatched it up and, with the help of a friend, designed the full wrap graphics that catch the eye and lure in potential customers.

Wherever she drives the converted truck, Kaplan is met with “unabashed enthusiasm.”

“Honestly, there are few people who walk by and don’t say something, take a picture, comment, or just say hello,” Kaplan said.

Of course, her wares help too.

Kaplan starts each sales day with an early trip to the downtown Los Angeles flower district to stock up on fresh-cut flowers. She arranges them herself, and sells them in vintage and collapsible plastic vases for between $2 and $40.

That’s far below the price point of most arrangers. In fact, Kaplan considers her chief competition to be bouquets sold by Trader Joe’s.

Kaplan tends to cruise in Venice, Santa Monica and other nearby locations on the weekends, parking in shady metered spaces to attract customers.

“We make sure we’ve got tunes … and then we hit the road,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan hasn’t been able to take Lola out as much as she’d like. Only recently did she get the opportunity to cut back on her hours at her day job to devote more time to the budding business, which she hopes will blossom and grow.

First, Kaplan wants to create a regular schedule, so that customers know where she’ll be at any given time, and give Lola an eco-friendly upgrade — a solar-powered vent to keep the flowers cool and fresh.

Oddly, the converted ice cream truck isn’t actually refrigerated, but that doesn’t impact her business much given the mild Southern California climes.

Next will be expansion. Kaplan envisions a fleet of trucks combing the streets of Los Angeles selling flowers. She has her eye on two or three ice cream trucks in an undisclosed location, and says that franchising is not out of the question.

Kaplan seems to be the first to make a splash with the mobile flower truck. Stories sprouted up all over the Internet hailing the innovation as a welcome departure from mobile food vans.

It was overwhelming, Kaplan said.

“It makes me feel amazing,” she said.

The Flower Truck runs under the same rules as its foodie brethren. Only the state can dictate what vehicles can and cannot do on public streets, so Kaplan is welcome to park at any legal space and dispense her wares, as long as she keeps an eye on parking regulations, according to Santa Monica City Planner Paul Foley.

At this point, local flower shops have either not heard of its new-age competition, or feel that The Flower Shop serves a different clientele.

Janet Farmer, owner of Dellarobia, a flower shop on the 1500 block of Fourth Street, said she’d heard of the truck, and maybe seen it around town.

But concerned?

“No, not yet,” she said.

The Flower Truck will be cruising around the Westside most weekends, and will be making an appearance at the Abbott Kinney Festival in September.

Check out the website, www.theflowertruck.com, for updates on location and wares.


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