The last Harry Potter movie came out in 2011. That was six years ago. Since then, Daniel Radcliffe has acted in 10 films and several plays. Emma Watson has graduated from Brown and traveled the globe as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Rupert Grint has bought and sold an ice cream truck. Even J. K. Rowling has set her sights on other projects, like high-profile Twitter fights with the likes of Piers Morgan and Donald Trump. Everyone, it seems, has moved on from Harry Potter.
Except Petali. For some reason, the small Mt. Auburn flower shop has transfigured its storefront into something straight out of Diagon Alley. A sign outside reads “Welcome Wizards & Muggles!”—beckoning passersby as if it were 2006.
But Petali does cast a convincing spell. My first impression, walking into the flower shop, is that the flower shop no longer sells flowers. Scarves and ties lie on a faded table, striped in red and gold. Bookshelves line the back of the room, flanked by sprightly brooms. In the shop’s recesses sit shadowed mugs and notebooks with cursive covers. Silent, downy owls peer at me from their perches on dusty tomes.
What flowers there were have faded into the background, secondary to the gnarled branch that looms over the store, hanging four banners: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff. But why Harry Potter? Why now?
I talked to John Selletto, proprietor of the shop. He calls this rebranding the “Gardens of Harry Potter.” Selletto says he periodically chooses a new theme for the store, and rearranges the whole shop around it for a limited time. Harry Potter happens to be this one.
“Our main business is a flower shop, but we like to fool around. When we get ideas, we set it up. We let it run until we get another idea,” he says. “This is something we’re fooling around with.”
The idea didn’t come from nowhere. Selletto’s brother runs The Fairy Shop, a “100 percent Harry Potter” store on Newbury Street, and a collaborator on the installation. That’s just how the two of them run their businesses—by revolving through themes. According to Selletto, the business model is working: “Gardens of Harry Potter” has attracted a lot of new customers to Petali, perhaps ones who wouldn’t be drawn into a mundane flower shop.
“They pop in because they can connect with Harry Potter or the 9 3/4 sign,” Selletto says. “Then they’re all fired up that they found a really cool flower shop and a really cool shop to get interesting gifts for people.”
It makes sense: mandrakes are the new roses these days. Nothing says “I love you” to that special someone better than a screaming plant child.
I ask Selletto if he thought about using the “Fantastic Beasts” spinoff franchise for a theme. Fantastic Beasts might not yet have the same cultural cachet, but it is certainly fresher, which might matter to a store that sells flowers. And Eddie Redmayne… Need I say more?
“That could be the next idea.” Selletto replies slowly. The idea works itself out as he speaks. “See, you just gave me an idea! That’s how it works.”