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Alyssa Van Guilder

Published:

As an artist, what sparks my fire is creating multi-media pieces and seeing how each layer becomes something new thanks to a medley of visuals. I find it to be far more exciting than any one thing alone—it’s magic. As a business owner, I strive to create an environment that does a similar thing. One that uplifts and inspires and cultivates a unique community thanks to various additives … art, music, plants, flowers, coffee, tea … and the energy of the amazing people involved. Together, something new and unique is created that could never exist without the other. It is also ever changing—the faces, the objects, the conversations. It reminds us to be present to a moment that won’t be seen again.

Cara Totman Photography

Growing up in Alaska, my mom had arts and crafts readily available to us. Around 7 or 8, I had a childhood epiphany while designing a one-of-kind woodland mermaid out of yarn, glue, lichen, and bark. I knew that someday I would be an artist. I would paint rocks and drawings on discarded pieces of wood and put them up for sale at the end of our dirt driveway—of course, sales were light due to the fact that our rural home was off the Denali Highway, and we saw more caribou than people! My parents owned and operated a café in town, which became a hub for the small Alaskan community, and the idea that a business could be a safe space for connection was engrained early on.

When I was 10, my family moved to Minnesota. I was homeschooled and continued to have access to creative methods of learning. While we were involved in homeschool groups and I had great friends, we continued to live a life somewhat off the beaten path. Still, my epiphany had turned into a deep-rooted love for making all things beautiful. 

Inspired beauty is a powerful thing; it causes you to stop and see life a little differently; it can change your day, your week, or even the course of your life. That magic is amplified when you share it with others. After my freshman year of college, I felt a little lost and decided on a gap year in Colorado. I worked at a “challenge camp,” building kids’ confidence through mastering skills like mountain biking, rappelling off a 350-foot cliff, and conquering a high-ropes course. I loved the work, but I missed creating. I knew I had to get back to a path that enabled me to make a difference through creative work. I landed on art therapy, but marrying young led to a windy road towards pursuing my education. Dreams continued to fester, and I started to wonder if the best way to fruition would be to open a coffee shop with an art gallery and events—a place that would bring community and creativity together. 

In 2003, I made another move—this time to the East Coast to be close to family. In 2005, I found myself at a crossroads—soon to be a single mom with two kids, I was determined to find a way to support myself and my children through work I believed in. I decided to put my business dreams into a business plan and jumped into the deep end without a raft. I bought a flower shop for $5,000 thanks to a loan from family, and Apotheca Flowers (a flower, gift, and tea shop) was birthed into the world. I created a business plan thinking that I could get a loan from a bank—but due to my naïve lack of credit history, they all but humored me with a sit-down and ushered me out the door with a pat on the back. Still, I was determined that this was going to work. After trying for loan after loan and repeatedly being told no, I borrowed a credit card from my brother to buy Christmas inventory, and that was it! I was in business—succeeding was the only option.

Knowing that my business plan encompassed different nuances, I dug deep to find a perfect name. When I found the Latin word “apotheca”, which means storehouse or variety, I knew it was perfect —like God’s way of giving me permission to create a business that was more than one thing. 

Often the kids ran flower deliveries with me or were in the shop with me while I worked. If I had a big project, I would set up a tent and sleeping bags—it felt like an adventure, and we loved it. I would often bundle them up early in the morning, and we would go to the Boston Flower Market together. My dad helped with deliveries and my mom with the books. 

Apotheca: Latin, meaning “storehouse.”

In 2008, the café portion of my dream finally became a reality. We moved into a larger space, and my family, my amazing customer base, and even my ex-husband (who remains a friend) helped me settle into Apotheca’s new home—an old 1860s Train Station. Three years in, I already felt like I was fully accepted into the community of Goffstown, and my customers were family. This proved to be life-saving that year when my parents and brothers moved away, and my ex-husband moved to Texas. 

I truly felt alone for the first time, and the stakes felt higher than ever. Making sure my business survived and my children thrived was all on me. I was fighting against a lot of fear and feelings of inadequacy, and in full disclosure, I made some stupid decisions during that time—including taking on a toxic business partnership in spite of my advisers begging me not to! I almost lost everything; but the lessons learned proved to be something I will forever be grateful for. Making decisions from a place of fear is never going to produce the right result. You’ve got to have your own back, know your boundaries, and believe that you are enough and that you WILL find a way. My motto is often “You got this!”, simple but powerful to remember.

“Apotheca is a space committed to inspiration, to never underestimate the power of kindness, and to seeing and sharing the tiny bits of life that matter most—‘Acknowledge, Uplift, Inspire, Impact’.” Upon entering the shop, you will find our Mission Statement and Core Values up on the wall. We have had our mission statement in place forever, but during the onset of the pandemic, I worked on painting it with my younger two children (yes, I met the love of my life in the shop and had two more children, but that’s a different story!). I felt it was so important to remind my team and I why Apotheca existed and to find ways to serve our community even when our doors were closed to the public. It was cathartic, as art-making often is. (I touched on a powerful word just then …TEAM. Other than the customers we serve, the greatest joy of my business journey has been my team, more on that later!) 

The shop is filled with bright white space and earth-tone color with vibrant pops in cozy contrast with antiques and natural objects. You’ll find layered wallpaper under spackling that looks like it has been there for a hundred years, and wooden floorboards that HAVE been there for a hundred years. It is important to me that the space feels warm and welcoming but intricate and inspiring—sparking familiarity and curiosity. 

We sell espresso, coffee, and tea and simple but delicious food selections. In the morning, you will find familiar, retired faces sitting and chatting while drinking their expected beverages. Our regulars add a comforting richness to the tapestry of our community. We also see high school students, college students, moms whose toddlers perfect their walking skills on the ramp that connects the café to the flower shop, and young adults buying plant babies for their homes. We are diverse and better for it. We feature local artists as well as artists we have met while traveling or through serendipitous connections. The heart of Apotheca is the café, and the lifeblood is flowers. 

Our signature blooms are known for their unique color palettes and earthy elegance. Flowers are a language that surpasses the limitations of vocabulary, and we are so honored to serve as a conduit of connection for our customers. This proved to be increasingly true during the pandemic, when isolation was so suffocating. Flowers could be delivered and share messages of love.

An unexpected addition has been designing wedding flowers. I fell in love with our clients and with finding ways to uniquely celebrate them through color, texture, and design. Our wedding work-hub is at our Design House (a larger warehouse giving us room to spread out and be more productive). We deliver wedding florals throughout New England and New York. I co-own a wedding venue called The Gardens at Uncanoonuc, and we are opening another industrial event space called The Gardens at The Factory. One of my greatest joys has been starting a mentorship group for Flower Loving Entrepreneurs called “Botanical Business Society.”

As I mentioned, my team is very important to me. Choosing to trust others with my vision and learning how to share it has not been without serious mistakes and heartaches as I learn to be a better leader; but the process of creating TOGETHER is unbeatable. The magic of inviting people in who care about the work and purpose of your business and put forth heartfelt effort and creativity to keep the dream alive is a gift. Going on the journey together has been a blessing! 

As an artist, what sparks my fire is creating multi-media pieces and seeing how each layer becomes something new thanks to a medley of visuals. I find it to be far more exciting than any one thing alone—it’s magic. As a business owner, I strive to create an environment that does a similar thing. One that uplifts and inspires and cultivates a unique community thanks to various additives … art, music, plants, flowers, coffee, tea … and the energy of the amazing people involved. Together, something new and unique is created that could never exist without the other. It is also ever changing—the faces, the objects, the conversations. It reminds us to be present to a moment that won’t be seen again.

Cara Totman Photography

Growing up in Alaska, my mom had arts and crafts readily available to us. Around 7 or 8, I had a childhood epiphany while designing a one-of-kind woodland mermaid out of yarn, glue, lichen, and bark. I knew that someday I would be an artist. I would paint rocks and drawings on discarded pieces of wood and put them up for sale at the end of our dirt driveway—of course, sales were light due to the fact that our rural home was off the Denali Highway, and we saw more caribou than people! My parents owned and operated a café in town, which became a hub for the small Alaskan community, and the idea that a business could be a safe space for connection was engrained early on.

When I was 10, my family moved to Minnesota. I was homeschooled and continued to have access to creative methods of learning. While we were involved in homeschool groups and I had great friends, we continued to live a life somewhat off the beaten path. Still, my epiphany had turned into a deep-rooted love for making all things beautiful. 

Inspired beauty is a powerful thing; it causes you to stop and see life a little differently; it can change your day, your week, or even the course of your life. That magic is amplified when you share it with others. After my freshman year of college, I felt a little lost and decided on a gap year in Colorado. I worked at a “challenge camp,” building kids’ confidence through mastering skills like mountain biking, rappelling off a 350-foot cliff, and conquering a high-ropes course. I loved the work, but I missed creating. I knew I had to get back to a path that enabled me to make a difference through creative work. I landed on art therapy, but marrying young led to a windy road towards pursuing my education. Dreams continued to fester, and I started to wonder if the best way to fruition would be to open a coffee shop with an art gallery and events—a place that would bring community and creativity together. 

In 2003, I made another move—this time to the East Coast to be close to family. In 2005, I found myself at a crossroads—soon to be a single mom with two kids, I was determined to find a way to support myself and my children through work I believed in. I decided to put my business dreams into a business plan and jumped into the deep end without a raft. I bought a flower shop for $5,000 thanks to a loan from family, and Apotheca Flowers (a flower, gift, and tea shop) was birthed into the world. I created a business plan thinking that I could get a loan from a bank—but due to my naïve lack of credit history, they all but humored me with a sit-down and ushered me out the door with a pat on the back. Still, I was determined that this was going to work. After trying for loan after loan and repeatedly being told no, I borrowed a credit card from my brother to buy Christmas inventory, and that was it! I was in business—succeeding was the only option.

Knowing that my business plan encompassed different nuances, I dug deep to find a perfect name. When I found the Latin word “apotheca”, which means storehouse or variety, I knew it was perfect —like God’s way of giving me permission to create a business that was more than one thing. 

Often the kids ran flower deliveries with me or were in the shop with me while I worked. If I had a big project, I would set up a tent and sleeping bags—it felt like an adventure, and we loved it. I would often bundle them up early in the morning, and we would go to the Boston Flower Market together. My dad helped with deliveries and my mom with the books. 

Apotheca: Latin, meaning “storehouse.”

In 2008, the café portion of my dream finally became a reality. We moved into a larger space, and my family, my amazing customer base, and even my ex-husband (who remains a friend) helped me settle into Apotheca’s new home—an old 1860s Train Station. Three years in, I already felt like I was fully accepted into the community of Goffstown, and my customers were family. This proved to be life-saving that year when my parents and brothers moved away, and my ex-husband moved to Texas. 

I truly felt alone for the first time, and the stakes felt higher than ever. Making sure my business survived and my children thrived was all on me. I was fighting against a lot of fear and feelings of inadequacy, and in full disclosure, I made some stupid decisions during that time—including taking on a toxic business partnership in spite of my advisers begging me not to! I almost lost everything; but the lessons learned proved to be something I will forever be grateful for. Making decisions from a place of fear is never going to produce the right result. You’ve got to have your own back, know your boundaries, and believe that you are enough and that you WILL find a way. My motto is often “You got this!”, simple but powerful to remember.

“Apotheca is a space committed to inspiration, to never underestimate the power of kindness, and to seeing and sharing the tiny bits of life that matter most—‘Acknowledge, Uplift, Inspire, Impact’.” Upon entering the shop, you will find our Mission Statement and Core Values up on the wall. We have had our mission statement in place forever, but during the onset of the pandemic, I worked on painting it with my younger two children (yes, I met the love of my life in the shop and had two more children, but that’s a different story!). I felt it was so important to remind my team and I why Apotheca existed and to find ways to serve our community even when our doors were closed to the public. It was cathartic, as art-making often is. (I touched on a powerful word just then …TEAM. Other than the customers we serve, the greatest joy of my business journey has been my team, more on that later!) 

The shop is filled with bright white space and earth-tone color with vibrant pops in cozy contrast with antiques and natural objects. You’ll find layered wallpaper under spackling that looks like it has been there for a hundred years, and wooden floorboards that HAVE been there for a hundred years. It is important to me that the space feels warm and welcoming but intricate and inspiring—sparking familiarity and curiosity. 

We sell espresso, coffee, and tea and simple but delicious food selections. In the morning, you will find familiar, retired faces sitting and chatting while drinking their expected beverages. Our regulars add a comforting richness to the tapestry of our community. We also see high school students, college students, moms whose toddlers perfect their walking skills on the ramp that connects the café to the flower shop, and young adults buying plant babies for their homes. We are diverse and better for it. We feature local artists as well as artists we have met while traveling or through serendipitous connections. The heart of Apotheca is the café, and the lifeblood is flowers. 

Our signature blooms are known for their unique color palettes and earthy elegance. Flowers are a language that surpasses the limitations of vocabulary, and we are so honored to serve as a conduit of connection for our customers. This proved to be increasingly true during the pandemic, when isolation was so suffocating. Flowers could be delivered and share messages of love.

An unexpected addition has been designing wedding flowers. I fell in love with our clients and with finding ways to uniquely celebrate them through color, texture, and design. Our wedding work-hub is at our Design House (a larger warehouse giving us room to spread out and be more productive). We deliver wedding florals throughout New England and New York. I co-own a wedding venue called The Gardens at Uncanoonuc, and we are opening another industrial event space called The Gardens at The Factory. One of my greatest joys has been starting a mentorship group for Flower Loving Entrepreneurs called “Botanical Business Society.”

As I mentioned, my team is very important to me. Choosing to trust others with my vision and learning how to share it has not been without serious mistakes and heartaches as I learn to be a better leader; but the process of creating TOGETHER is unbeatable. The magic of inviting people in who care about the work and purpose of your business and put forth heartfelt effort and creativity to keep the dream alive is a gift. Going on the journey together has been a blessing!