An internet ad, of all things, planted the seeds for Brittany Sarhage’s mobile horticultural service, Rudy’s Flower Truck.
While on maternity leave with her second daughter, Brittany Sarhage was looking for a career change, despite being unsure what she wanted to do. By chance, Sarhage saw an ad for an article on Entrepreneur magazine’s website: 10 mobile business ideas that weren’t food trucks. The 10 included a California woman who served as a full-service florist on wheels. Although Sarhage thought it an interesting idea, she scrolled on.
Yet that idea stuck in her mind for weeks.
“I wanted to provide a service to the community that was simple but that added a lot of value,” Sarhage says. “At that time, I wasn’t really looking to start a business, but when I saw this idea, I knew it would be something that would be cool for St. Louis.”
And thus was born Rudy’s Flower Truck.
Sarhage never planned on Rudy’s, but she had dreamed for more than a decade about opening a place of her own. Although an experience-based service business, like a coffee shop or bakery, topped her list, such a business always seemed a bit out of reach.
“It wasn’t until the idea of a mobile flower shop came to mind that I thought this could be possible,” she says. “I think the flexibility to travel to customers and the initial investment being something within my reach is what made Rudy’s start possible.”
That initial investment demanded the right truck: Sarhage wanted one that was unique and recognizable on area streets. On eBay, she found a 1958 Jeep Truck, one of only 30,000 made 60 years ago, and bought it from a Wisconsin man who shared with her its every potential issue and quirk.
The man was truthful; the truck, perfect for Sarhage’s needs. Its name later came to her while Sarhage was watching an international soccer game involving a player with the surname of Rudy. “As soon as I said the name, I knew it was a perfect fit for the business,” she recalls – and this spring, Rudy and Sarhage started rolling.
Sarhage remains open and honest about not only her truck but also her skills, most of which she’s learned since conceiving the business last fall. She’s neither a trained florist nor a custom floral designer, for instance. But she is creative by nature and helpful in creating beautiful bouquets with an eye for color for customers.
“Probably 70 percent of the time, I am the one putting together a bouquet for our customers,” she says. “If a customer can tell me what they’re looking for or what colors they like, I can do that. And my ability to do that has grown over the months.”
Sarhage encourages her weekend customers to browse the truck’s fresh blooms at their own pace, discovering seasonal and vibrant flowers in its bed. Although most of the blooms in the Jeep’s 16 flower buckets are sourced wholesale, several come from Flower Girl & Co., a farm in Palmyra, Illinois, about a 1½-hour drive north of St. Louis. Owner Lisa Cox was the first farmer to partner with Rudy’s.
“She was the first farmer who was really gung-ho to work with the truck,” Sarhage says of Cox. “It’s a great way to get some of her flowers out and into the public. I like featuring local blooms because it’s important to our customers. I also understand that not everything that is in demand will be local. The beauty of the truck is, we have a mix of blooms and greenery that support both the local and international economies.”
Rudy’s stock of blooms changes based on the season and Sarhage’s preference. The roselike lisianthus is her favorite, snapdragons are a best-seller, and Illinois-grown ranunculus and anemones help create stunning, custom bouquets for customers. But any product from Rudy’s is meant to spread joy.
“Flowers really seem to brighten up someone’s day,” Sarhage says. “Customers come to find a little piece of joy at the truck. Sometimes they share that joy with a friend or family member. There are numerous reasons people stop by, and I love hearing each and every one.”
In just a few short months, Rudy’s has rolled through Ladue, Maplewood, St. Louis’ Grove business district and other locales. Sarhage participated in a pop-up flower stand inside Anthropologie in Richmond Heights’ Saint Louis Galleria and, since then, has been doing a number of similar pop-up stands in other businesses, in addition to selling flowers from the truck. On her website’s calendar and her Instagram account (instagram.com/rudysflowertruck), Sarhage updates her customers on where she’ll visit next.
Sarhage hopes that when she’s taking photos of customers with Rudy or selling flowers, she’s also changing minds.
“People tend to think of flowers as only for special occasions,” she says. “What I want to do is make purchasing flowers just as normal as buying your weekly groceries. I’d love to see people view having flowers in their home as a necessity rather than a luxury. I think we’re on our way there. Getting St. Louis residents more accustomed with flowers and the joy that comes from sharing and having them is my ultimate goal.”
Rudy’s Flower Truck, 314-446-9659, rudysflowertruck.com