By Lori Anne Oliwa
Business is flourishing thanks to the creativity of Maritza Walton, owner of Casa De Flora Bar in Bloomfield, New Jersey. To say that Casa De Flora Bar is a business in bloom seems like an understatement. This isn’t your ordinary cafe. Aside from the coffee, tea, and gourmet eats it serves, the decor is exquisite with floor-to-ceiling canopies of cascading pink flowers, an elegant and striking aesthetic. Culinary hits like its famous brunch with croissant waffles and ‘cronuts’ - croissants turned into donuts - are wildly popular thanks to exotic flavors like guava. In keeping with the visual beauty of the space, the croissant waffles are decorated artistically with a chocolate drizzle and raspberries and blueberries, popping with color. Pastries are sweetly satisfying with spectacular presentation. “Everything is visually beautiful here. It’s designed to be an experience,” stated Walton, who left a 30-year corporate career to pursue her passion in life, floral design. “Along with the flowers, we also create pink lattes and even have a pink ATM machine.”
Casa De Flora Bar is also the home of the original ‘Sip & Clip’ parties, which are BYOB. The cafe also supplements the parties with complimentary beverages from the menu. Guests can rent private event space and create a memorable experience as they savor their favorite beverages while creating gorgeous floral bouquets. The results are stunning as large blooms explode with vibrant hues. A calendar of open public ‘sip and clip’ events encourages fun and camaraderie. Customers visiting the cafe to dine can also create a floral arrangement on the spot. “The arrangements make perfect gifts. The events themselves are very therapeutic and help guests create memories. The ladies arrive and are happy and excited and are always dressed up for the occasion, and that’s life changing for me too,” Walton said.
Recently celebrating one year in business during the last week of June 2023, the success of the cafe is a testament to the faith and determination of owner Maritza Walton, a Brooklyn native who possesses strong faith. “I thought many times the dream was over, but just kept fighting, pushing and even pivoting,” she stated, explaining that a fire in 2019 destroyed the building she was renting for her first business, Maritza Walton Designs. Walton started MW Designs in 2018, contracting with 35 new clients in her inaugural year in business. Despite the devastation of the fire, Walton found another location and carried on.
Three months later tragedy struck again when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled weddings and events. Walton pivoted again, helping clients to plan outdoor events. The disruption also proved to be fruitful for Walton, who had a concept in mind for combining a floral shop and cafe under one roof. As post-fire renovations were being completed on her original location, Walton approached the landlord and asked about the space next door, believing that would be perfect for an expansion. Construction started on Casa De Flora Bar in 2021, so Walton was simultaneously renovating two spaces, one for MW Designs and the other to house the new cafe.
Renovations were roughly 90% complete when the shock, struggle and strife of yet another devastating situation descended unrelentingly with Hurricane Ida, flooding and destroying the new location. “I had no flood insurance, received no assistance from FEMA and was out of money. I just couldn’t believe it when I received the call about the location being flooded. I thought that this time, my dream was really over,” noted Walton.
But true to form, Walton rose like a phoenix. She found an equity partner, persisted, and the rest is history!
Walton credited the expert counsel she received from the Institute For Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL), and in particular, Project Manager Tashieka Brewer. Walton met Brewer when Brewer visited the cafe and spoke about the business services available free-of-charge to business owners through the IFEL New Jersey Small Business Assistance program. As a result of the professional expertise she received through IFEL, Walton improved her business plan and created a presentation to showcase her business to potential investors. Walton feels she is now capital ready. “Before IFEL, I didn’t even know about the proper format for a business plan or about creating a formal pitch to investors. IFEL was very helpful in a hands-on way, and now I’m prepared to grow my business.”
IFEL in turn recognized Walton for her creativity and tenacity as an entrepreneur. “Maritza had the complete package for her business - a vision, space, and design but needed help gathering them into a cohesive plan. With the support of our expert volunteers, she was able to construct everything from a marketing plan to a comprehensive business plan. It takes a village, and through our success circles, Maritza was engulfed in collective knowledge from a caring community that now allows her to pay it forward,” stated IFEL Project Director Lena Washington.
To view the full cafe menu, visit the floral shop, or to book a ‘Sip & Clip’ event, visit www.casadeflorabar.com or call (973) 695-8381.