Cassandra Stadnicki is behind Exfolia Botanical, a new flower and gift shop in Logan Square. Credit: Provided

LOGAN SQUARE — A flower and gift shop specializing in ethically grown and foraged blooms has opened on a blossoming stretch of Wrightwood Avenue in Logan Square.

Exfolia Botanical debuted last month at 3608 W. Wrightwood Ave., selling custom bouquets and flowers by the stem, as well as candles, ceramics, soap and other locally made gifts.

Owner Cassandra Stadnicki, 38, ran a floral business out of her Little Village home for several years before opening her own store. Like other entrepreneurs, Stadnicki was inspired to take her homegrown business to the next level during the pandemic.

“I think [the pandemic] motivated a lot of people to figure out what it is they really want and need and how they can fulfill that. You have a lot of time to think,” she said.

Stadnicki incorporates wildflowers from overgrown lots and blooms from her personal garden into her arrangements. She also works with local farms that harvest their own flowers.

“I’m drawn to seasonal, available blooms. I think that’s the most sustainable,” she said. “It’s really fun for me to look around in my environment, while walking or driving, and see what’s popping up in prairies or overlooked pieces of land.”

An Exfolia Botanical bouquet. Credit: Provided

A native of the Southwest Side, Stadnicki is also committed to elevating local makers. Chicago-made products Ashley Trumbo soap, JJ ceramics and Personal Space candles are among the gifts currently available.

The shop’s name combines exfolia, a derivative of the Latin word exfoliāre, meaning “to strip of leaves,” and botanical, meaning relating to plants. Stadnicki said she was drawn to the word exfoliāre because florists strip flowers of leaves when making arrangements. But the word also has a symbolic meaning, she said.

“I liked the metaphor; it reminded me of a snake shedding its skin,” she said. “I think it’s important to let go of our past selves a bit when entering a new phase of life. It’s a healthy cycle and keeps things fresh.”

Reinvention defines Stadnicki’s journey, from restaurant worker and artist to at-home florist to flower shop owner. After graduating from Columbia College Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in photography, Stadnicki worked at restaurants “to pay the bills” while pursuing creative projects. Around five years ago, she found herself longing to be in nature, which is when she started to forage for flowers and freelance for floral companies.

“I just sort of felt unfulfilled. What do I want to spend my days doing? I just imagined myself very much in nature,” Stadnicki said.

Credit: Provided

Stadnicki worked at Sprout Home and Bottle & Branch, where she learned how to build floral arrangements. She also honed her skills at home, in between working at restaurants and working on photography projects.

Eventually, she launched an at-home floral business, which took off. On top of selling bouquets and helping established companies with weddings, she hosted floral pop-ups at local businesses like Humboldt House and her former employer, the now-closed Andersonville restaurant Passerotto.

One cold night in January, when the pandemic was raging, Stadnicki looked around her apartment, overflowing with bouquets waiting to be picked up, and she decided it was time to take a leap and open her own shop.

“I had already experimented with doing pop-ups, and was already a working florist, but all of the weddings and events got canceled. The restaurants closed down. And you’re left being like, ‘OK …,'” she said.

Now, Stadnicki is building her future with Exfolia Botanical in a growing pocket of west Logan Square. The shop is a few doors down from grab-and-go coffee spot necessary & sufficient, which opened in fall 2019. A bakery is also opening on the block soon.

A resident of Little Village, Stadnicki said she’s already received support from Logan Square neighbors. She recently had to hire an employee to keep up with orders and weddings. In the coming months, Stadnicki plans to launch floral workshops to connect with customers.

“I’ve absolutely reached a huge life goal and it’s been amazing meeting new people, and just being a part of this community here,” Stadnicki said.

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Logan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.orgnnLogan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale Twitter @mina_bloom_