If you’ve ever explored retail stores near the Denver Art Museum, then you’ve probably found your way to a grey building on Acoma Street brimming with black trim and gold lettering reading “Sacred Thistle.” This floral shop and home goods store is not your average shop, though. Here, the owners like to mix it up.
Sacred Thistle is co-owned by mother and daughter powerhouse Sydney and Cornelia Peterson. Prior to opening the floral shop and home goods store, Sydney worked in merchandising and as an artist for more than 30 years, and Cornelia got the lay of the land as a florist after working at a local flower shop.
“Collectively, we wanted to branch out and create something that wasn’t being offered in Denver—a place you could go in just for the ambiance or to be able to bring a piece of inspiration home with you,” Cornelia says.
Rather than finding traditional floral arrangements like a dozen roses or a grouping of sunflowers, at Sacred Thistle, visitors are greeted with unique, hand-picked bouquets based on seasonality. “We focus more on creating works of art that can be seen as ephemeral sculptures,” Cornelia says. “We never offer a set of arrangements because we like to hand-pick flowers at the market and make floral arrangements using what inspires us most.”
The shop has a small backyard with a few flower beds used to grow some blooms and fresh cuttings or greenery, but Sydney and Cornelia say they are not flower farmers. They opt to leave most stem-cutting to the professionals because there are several local flower farms and markets that make locally-grown blooms more readily available.
When Sydney and Cornelia set out to open Sacred Thistle, they chose not only to offer unique items but also to emphasize sustainability. That means focusing on where their products are sourced, from the blooms and pottery to the totes and tea towels.
“The flower world is deeply flawed in that it is so wasteful,” Cornelia says. “It often flies under the sustainability radar, probably because most people think it’s so elegant and beautiful how could it be harmful? Unfortunately, so many imported flowers contribute to the loss of land and pollution of chemicals in the same way industrial food farming does. This isn’t to say we’re perfect, because we certainly still buy those flowers, but we focus on paying attention to where they’re coming from and making changes where we can.”
During warmer months, Sacred Thistle sources its blooms from local farms and markets. During the colder months, Cornelia says flowers are sourced from wholesalers in other parts of the U.S., South America and The Netherlands.
When it comes to Sacred Thistle’s array of home goods, Sydney and Cornelia partner with artists whose work they connect with. “We work with every artist or company individually and cultivate a relationship with care. It is much easier to sell things you love rather than pick and choose from a gift show,” Cornelia says. “The community in Denver has been very receptive to our approach of curation and we are incredibly grateful to be given the space to continue.”
As Sacred Thistle’s business evolves and relationships with artists and makers grow, Cornelia says her close-knit relationship with her mom also changes.
“We have always been very close. So close, we decided we could tolerate each other every day. We balance each other out quite well, and where I fall short, my mother steps in or vice versa,” Cornelia says. “We still bicker, and we still laugh, but I think the key is to really understand what makes the other person tick and allowing freedom for growth in those areas. Otherwise, we would become stifled, and the store and our floral would certainly suffer for it.”
Sidebar: Where did the name Sacred Thistle come from?
“The name came from the wild thistles that grow in the foothill mountains. There is a thistle, often referred to as a ‘blessed thistle’ that is not only beautiful but can provide incredible healing qualities to the human body. We wanted to play off that concept and create a space that could mimic it.” — Cornelia Peterson, co-owner of Sacred Thistle