Pretty, yummy and practical — that’s how April Braley describes the product her business makes. Add healthful to that list, and you’ve got a winning combination in Fruit Bouquets, the edible fruit arrangements she makes in her storefront on Wilson Street in Brewer.
“There’s the national franchise [Edible Arrangements], but there’s nothing like it in this area that I know of,” said Braley, 33, who opened her Brewer store two months ago. “It’s such a nice alternative to flowers. Instead of just throwing them away, you eat them.”
Braley, a Glenburn resident, began making fruit bouquets a little over a year ago at Roger’s Market in Hudson, her family’s business. She wanted to send an edible arrangement to a friend, but as there was no place in eastern Maine that made them, she decided to try creating her own. Word got out among friends and family that Braley had a knack for arranging pineapple, strawberries, melons, apples, grapes, kiwis and other fruits into cheery, bright centerpieces. Demand began to outpace output.
“I had no idea we were going to grow as fast as we did,” said Braley. “We went public last Thanksgiving, and it really became apparent that we needed to be in town. People wanted to be able to just drop in and pick up their order.”
The Brewer store opened just in time for Mother’s Day, the first big day for fruit bouquets. Business has remained steady, with Braley’s mother, Barbara Collins, and a few Roger’s Market employees helping to take orders and make deliveries. Many of Braley’s customers order arrangements for birthdays and anniversaries, while others bring a fruit bouquet to a loved one in the hospital. While flowers often are not allowed in hospitals due to potentially harmful bacteria and allergens, fruit bouquets carry no such risk.
“We’ve had a lot of folks order for celebrations after funerals,” said Braley. “I think it’s because they’re so bright and cheerful, and they serve kind of double duty, since it’s food, too.”
Braley also has found that her bouquets are a fun, sneaky way to gets kids to eat their fruits and vegetables instead of candy or cake.
“One of the biggest things I’ve found is how much kids love these,” she said. “My daughter
Jenna is 8, and she goes to Glenburn Elementary School, and every time they have a school function or holiday party her classmates ask her if I can bring in a fruit bouquet. They love it. It’s a really good alternative to cupcakes.”
It takes Braley anywhere from two to three hours to make an arrangement, depending on the size. She slices pineapples into the shapes of daisies and sunflowers, carves honeydews and cantaloupes into calla lilies and ferns, and skewers strawberries dipped in Ghirardelli chocolate, so they look like luscious roses. Unlike the Edible Arrangements franchise, Braley uses wooden skewers instead of plastic, and uses lettuce instead of cellophane to line the bottom of the vase.
“It’s my little way of being a little more green,” she said.
Braley prices her arrangements starting typically at $30 and going up to $75 or a little more. They range in size from the petite Daisy Bucket, priced at $30, made of pineapple daisies, grapes and cantaloupe, to the huge, vibrant Harvest Bouquet, which falls into the $45-$85 price range and includes oranges, pears, pineapples, kiwis, grapes, apples and strawberries. A Christmas centerpiece uses watermelon and pomegranate to add some seasonal color. Braley also will make custom arrangements.
“I wanted to make my prices a little bit lower than the national chain because I didn’t want it to be something only those with lots of expendable income can afford,” she said. “You can spend well over $100 on a really big one, but I try to keep it around $75 or so.”
Fruit Bouquets allows Braley to exercise her creative muscle, though by her own account, she never expected to be doing anything like it. Her favorite aspect of her new career is twofold.
“It’s nice to make people happy,” she said. “The taste testing is pretty nice, too.”
To order a Fruit Bouquet, visit the store at 510 Wilson St. in Brewer, across from Dairy Queen, call 561-9626 or visit www.myfruitbouquet.com.