Busy Being Elegant
His business began after trying to get rid of his stuff.
Michael Hansen, owner of The French Bee, a home and floral collection store in Phoenix, grew up browsing luxurious boutiques with his mother. It’s who he credits his appreciation for beautiful things. “I remember being very excited about it and sort of really daydreaming about it,” he connects.
It’s only right he should start one of his very own.
After moving from a large scale historic home in Utah to a small town house in Arizona, Michael had no room to house his European furnishing. He rented a small 10×10 space at Antique Gatherings in Phoenix, where his items were put up for sale.
“The stuff I put in sold out in a weekend. So, I wondered what else I could do,” Hansen says.
His experience in the floral industry is what led him to start creating his own floral botanical arrangements inside his small garage studio. “I started placing them in that space and they started selling very quickly,” Michael says.
Michael realized it was difficult to find items to fit his personal European style for his Arizona home. “I did try to find things or stores with a look or feel of what my store has. I did have people say ‘that’s not what people here are doing,’” he shares.
Michael didn’t want a traditional Southwest look of heavy mesquite or Tuscan influences. “Although these looks are beautiful and current, there’s still a need and want for something else along with it,” he says.
Despite critics, his success quickly outgrew its space. Michael was doing work way beyond what his garage could even handle. He needed a shop where people could come. So, in 2005 he purchased a 400-square-foot retail space in Phoenix to house his floral designs and retail decor.
Michael’s taste for his personal fashion isn’t derivative of anything in particular. “It comes from inside of me,” he says.
Today, his store centralizes mostly on European influences, carrying Italian pieces, beautiful Chinoiserie, Chinese exports, porcelain and more.
The French Bee’s newest location at Camelback and 32nd Street in Phoenix is a 10,000 square foot space with two sides. One side houses all the gifts, accessories, fragrances, candles and stationary, while the other showcases all of the home collections of furniture, rugs, chandeliers and paintings.
Looking over at his new spot, Michael admits he never thought it would be this successful. “I’ve been standing in front of a window before admiring a store and seen our product sitting in the front window. It’s surreal,” he relives in his mind.
In addition to the retail, the company’s floral design wholesale divisions are found all over the United States shipping to places such as China, Hong Kong, Dubai and Germany.
“Our wholesale company is only about 4 years old and I never would have dreamed that in that short amount of time that we’d be shipping to 5,000 of the country’s best and greatest designers, furniture stores, boutiques,” he says sincerely.
Now, he’s no longer daydreaming about beautiful things. He’s creating and sharing them with others. “Any aspect of the creative endeavor is my favorite part of what I do. I don’t think I could shut it off if I tried,” Michael says.
OPEN THE FRONT DOOR TO The French Bee