Derek D’Andrea’s story begins when he was a boy helping at his family’s nursery on West Putnam Ave by Greenwich Library, behind where Chase Bank operates today.
The D’Andrea family has been in the nursery business in Greenwich for 100 years.
“I remember as a boy running through the Christmas trees with my sister,” D’Andrea said, adding that he was thrilled to have recreated that family owned nursery vibe in his business, Arch in Bloom.
After studying landscape architecture in college, D’Andrea teamed up with his father Bill to open Arch in Bloom, a landscape design service with an office in the small building at 201 Pemberwick Rd, formerly home to Watson’s Catering.
In addition to landscape architecture, the business offered maintenance, masonry, pools & spas, and outdoor structures.
After a time, Derek and his father started decorating the windows of 201 Pemberwick Rd for Halloween and Christmas – just for fun.
During an interview at Arch in Bloom on Monday, Derek said the space on Pemberwick Rd evolved organically from its initial use as office space to include a retail element, and later become a destination for community events.
“There is a school bus stop right here,” Derek said gesturing to the front of the store. “The kids would stop and look at the windows.”
From there, Derek and his father decided to sell trees, wreaths and garlands for Christmas. Before long the retail business expanded to four seasons.
Today, working alongside his fiancée Jaime, his dog Finn, and a loyal crew, D’Andrea said Arch in Bloom had been busy selling a variety of Christmas trees, wreaths and garlands, in addition to ornaments and gifts in the retail shop.
“We had such a fantastic turnout and support from everyone in the neighborhood selling trees and wreaths that first year that we decided to open up year round,” D’Andrea explained. “We started growing our own perennials – we have green houses in Port Chester – and we do a lot with local farmers who produce nursery stock. We also sell beautiful summer flowers and pumpkins in the fall.”
For the holidays, Derek said his crew makes wreaths and garlands by hand inside a tent disguised as a wooden outbuilding one could mistake for Santa’s workshop.
“All the greens are sourced locally from Connecticut,” Derek said, adding that he likes to offer more than the typical variety of Christmas trees, including Noble Fir and Grand Fir.
The evolution of Arch in Bloom from office space to retail, to community event hub was organic.
After he began selling trees and wreathes, Derek said Andrea Blume, chair of the Pemberwick-Glenville Association asked if he would donate a tree to the PGA’s annual ‘Santa in the Park’ event in Pemberwick Park.
“It was before Covid,” D’Andrea recalled. “But, I said, ‘Sure, let’s make it a mainstay this year.’ We said we would plant and donate a 25 ft Norway Spruce, and light it – and it could be ‘the Pemberwick Tree.’ And, going forward, the PGA could have their tree lighting ceremony here every year, instead of in Pemberwick Park.”
Toward that end, D’Andrea decorated a tall Norway Spruce on site, and the tree became a focal point for the Pemberwick-Glenville community.
Ms Blume said she looked forward to post-pandemic, and having the entire Pemberwick-Glenville community gather at Arch in Bloom with Santa.
“The beautiful tree Derek has dedicated to the PGA community will be the backdrop for our collaborative event post-pandemic,” she said. “We’re so excited to have the community gather and enjoy the tree for years to come.”
D’Andrea said before the pandemic, he had begun hosting community events at Arch in Bloom including ‘Pumpkins and Pints,’ and a ‘Flurry Fest,’ and he hoped to add the annual PGA Christmas event to the roster.
“Since we’re in a neighborhood, we have such a unique dynamic,” Jamie said. “Even when people are getting their trees, you see little wagons being pulled around the corner with kids in them – families are coming. Kids will ride their bikes and pop in the shop. It’s something you don’t see in a lot of places in Greenwich.”
D’Andrea said during last week’s snow storm, more than one neighbor trekked through the snow to Arch in Bloom to buy a tree and carry it home.
“It’s really a fantastic sense of community here. We’re so happy to be here. The display and the events are an opportunity for us to give back,” D’Andrea said. “We also provide premium, hand made product at the right price. We don’t charge astronomical prices. We like to be very fair.”
And while many local businesses have struggled, D’Andrea said his was one of the few fortunate businesses to see a bit of a boom during the pandemic.
“Because everybody was home, they wanted to do work on their property,” he said. “The other thing I’ve seen more this year is a return to small, local businesses, which was another reason why we saw a boom. People were afraid to go to the big stores.”
“And,” Jaime said. “With Covid, many different industries were negatively impacted, especially restaurants, so there was a drive to shop local to support the people who need it more than ever – as opposed to supporting big box stores that won’t really feel the hit as much.”
“We’re looking forward to next year, hopefully we can have community events here again,” D’Andrea said.