Flower stores generally send orders out to funerals, but in mid-July, the 11-month-old Mission de Flores had its own tragedy to deal with: One of the partners took his own life.
Ezekiel Steffens, 32 years old, was the master florist of the shop at 2590 Folsom near the corner of 22nd Street. “He really did everything. This was his place, this was his happy place,” said business partner Steve Rubenfaer. “So I still kind of feel like it’s his store.”
“It was a pretty crazy thing, pretty intense, very heavy,” Rubenfaer said of the experience of losing his friend and partner. “Everyone always says the same thing, ‘It’s so shocking and you don’t expect it.’ It’s true. I just didn’t see it coming.”
Steffens, he said, was an artist, and Yelp reviewers agree. Zeke, as he was known, made “beautifully modern arrangements,” was “clearly passionate about what he’s doing,” and “never fail[ed] to impress.” This “connoisseur of flowers” is praised for his unique skill and dedication throughout, and one uploaded image even shows an arrangement at the front desk of Yelp’s headquarters in San Francisco. Not a single review falls below five stars—of 14 reviews, to be sure, but still quite a feat.
Rubenfaer met Steffens while working at Rubenfaer’s former business (selling collectible stamps online) and the two remained friends afterwards, eventually partnering to open Mission de Flores in September of 2013. Steffens was the artist of the pair while Robenfaer was the “manager guy,” leaving most of the day-to-day business to the master florist.
“He really loved flowers,” Rubenfaer said. “He really loved the fact that whenever someone buys flowers, it’s for something special. It’s for a wedding or it’s for a birthday, and he was really happy that he could be part of these moments.”
The shop offers a good space for the designer’s talents. The open room is small but airy: Its large windows allow plenty of sunlight through, and a minimalist interior decor makes it feel quite spacious.
Outside, there is the usual arrangement of flower stems—roses, tulips, lilies—that can be arranged into a bouquet within. But inside, the shop looks more like an art boutique than a florist’s, colorful blooms and succulents tastefully arranged atop their tables.
Designer Greg Lum has stepped in as an arranger and has been working to “help them get back to normal.” The new manager Ana Neira, a Spaniard who has been in San Francisco for seven years, is busily thinking of new ways to lay out the shop in anticipation of the “grand reopening,” even prompting me for suggestions as to table and flower placement.
“We’re trying to continue along the same path,” Rubenfaer said, adamant that Steffens’s style would remain. “We want great customer service, great quality, great designers. Our tagline has been ‘Always something special,’ which I guess is a little cheesy but true.”
After a two week hiatus following the death, Mission de Flores is having a grand reopening “Flower Party” at 5 p.m. today. Wine, cheese and flower giveaways will help draw new faces to the shop, Rubenfaer hopes.
“We just want to meet our customers and develop long-term relationships,” he said. “We’re gonna sell flowers online and do delivery, but the first business is from the neighborhood, and we want to be a neighborhood flower shop.”