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How I Made It: Richard David and Mark Held

Letting ideas blossom into new arrangements

August 24, 2008|Tiffany Hsu | Times Staff Writer

The gig: Co-owners of Mark's Garden floral shop in Sherman Oaks, which is known for its work on weddings, including those of Avril Lavigne, Gwen Stefani, Heidi Klum and, last weekend, Ellen DeGeneres. Since the business opened in July 1993, the team has worked on each post-Academy Awards Governor's Ball. The shop handles more than 100 daily orders with eight delivery trucks, 45 full-time employees and a multimillion-dollar annual budget for flowers.

Personal: The pair, domestic partners who live in Brentwood, were introduced by friends in the early 1980s.

Education: David, a Los Angeles native, received a bachelor's degree in art from UCLA and then spent time as a television producer and writer. Held was born in Chicago, grew up in various parts of California and attended the University of Redlands for two years. He then studied music and dance in Boston and New York. While dancing professionally in Germany in the mid-1970s, he worked at a flower shop and taught himself floral design.

Dream job: "Retirement," jokes Held, who also wouldn't mind being a concert pianist.

Launchpad: With $10,000 of their own money, the pair kicked off the business with one leased delivery truck, one driver, one designer and a nonchalant attitude. "It wasn't that big a gamble," David said. "If it didn't work, it didn't work." They worked out of their home for 10 days before renting the current 5,000-square-foot location. David had planned to help out for just a few weeks, but word of mouth about Held's innovative, lush "English garden" style quickly overwhelmed the shop with orders. "It took over our lives," David said.

Downsides: Trouble-shooting, intense hours and perishable goods (certain centerpieces include 2,500 roses). One Missouri wedding involved an enormous crew that had to be housed and fed, flowers to be trucked up from Florida and a tornado threat. For Jennifer Lopez's baby shower, the duo created a winter wonderland on the roof of Gramercy Park Hotel in New York. "Sometimes we wonder how we'll make it through the weekend when we look at the sheer magnitude of what we have to accomplish," David said.

Networking: The two work with sources normally associated with the movie industry, including props vendors and an "iron man" for structures such as the 200 metal stands used for a recent wedding. Between referrals and references in magazines and shows, the pair has never had to spend money on advertising.

Inspirations: Flower shows in London and Amsterdam, New York gift conventions, Broadway stage settings and other florists are all fair game. With the "germ of an idea" from a client, the team will "try to top ourselves -- we love to do small, but it's more fun to re-create something big and dramatic," Held said. He and David occasionally overshoot their bottom line by using expensive flowers, such as green-tinged hybrid roses, to construct extravagant tableaux.

Next up: Their book, "Fabulous Parties," was published in April, and the pair are working on a second tome. Reality show proposals, however, are a no-go zone, they said.

Advice: "Use common sense and be willing to take a chance," David said. Added Held, "Try to create something that other people haven't."

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tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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Got an idea for How I Made It, a weekly feature that appears in the Business section? Send it to: howimadeit@latimes.com.

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