Get to know ... Floral designer Cyrus Paktinat
WESTPORT — The Flowerfall of Westport is possibly the most magical place in town.
A mix between the Mad Hatter’s tea party and “The Secret Garden,” the Post Road flower shop is a haven.
“When I was younger, I didn’t really believe in feng shui, but now I believe and this building is the most relaxing, beautiful building in town,” said Cyrus Paktinat, Flowerfall’s owner.
Last Friday, Paktinat was at the back of his shop celebrating his 68th birthday with a friend, whose birthday also happened to be that day, over tea and dates.
Rain tapped the glass ceiling as Paktinat told the story of his life in the shop, covered on all walls by trunks of ivy.
Born in Iran, Paktinat grew up admiring the films of Audrey Hepburn. “I always wanted to come to America because I love Hollywood movies,” Paktinat said.
Paktinat got his wish in 1972, when he left the Iranian army and came to the U.S. to study theater and film production at Memphis State University, because he knew some people in Tennessee.
He then returned to Iran to work as a producer for Iranian national television and radio. But after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, he found it difficult to make the kind of movies he liked in Iran, and returned to the U.S., this time to Norwalk, where his brother lived.
The only work Paktinat could find was in landscaping, and he took it in order to support his wife and child. On his time off, Paktinat would drive around Westport because he said the town was “very classy and beautiful and everybody was driving very nice.”
Passing by Post Road East one day, Paktinat saw a small shop for rent and thought it would be a beautiful place to have a flower shop, though he had never thought to open a flower shop before.
“This image was in my mind to make a flower shop called Flowerfall, like a waterfall of flowers,” Paktinat said.
The property, an over 100-year-old house which before the Flowerfall housed a cycling shop, was owned by a man who didn’t think Paktinat’s business would succeed, but let him rent the space anyway.
The Flowerfall opened in 1990, and only then did Paktinat fall in love with flower design.
“I got really into it and started doing weddings, because without weddings you cannot stay in this town,” Paktinat said.
Business is tough, but it’s a labor of love and allowed him to buy a small house in Redding, Paktinat said. He has designed flowers for Martha Stewart and Bill Clinton and has pictures with both of them in his shop. These days, he is more selective about the jobs he accepts.
“I only take jobs that I can really get inspired by and use 100 percent of my energy and experience on,” Paktinat said. “For some reason, with this job you have to get inspired by something — by the flowers, or the person you’re doing it for — just something you’ll have confidence will make it beautiful.”
Paktinat said he works best at night, away from the distractions of incoming calls and walk-in orders. Each week, he travels to the New York Flower Market on Manhattan’s 28th Street to pick flowers from all over the world, and visits Norwalk’s East Coast Wholesale Flowers for more local varieties.
Although his flower designs are diverse, Paktinat said his inclination is toward ones that appear wild.
“I like to get into a garden at night that’s all flowers and, in the dark, start cutting a big bunch and then come to a kitchen and turn the lights on. That’s my favorite bouquet,” Paktinat said.
Most people arrange flowers in a very structured way, but Paktinat said he doesn’t think that’s beautiful.
“You don’t have to be a speciality or a designer to see the beauty or not. Anybody, ordinary people, when they look and it’s natural, they like it better, because they relate better to what it is,” Paktinat said.
email@example.com; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1