Michelle Lerga's Vintage Flower Trailer Love, Sweet Lulu
Feb 27, 2019 11:00AM
By Melissa Mendonca
Story by Melissa Mendonca
Photos by Kelli Avila
ASK MICHELLE Lerga how she started her flower business, Love, Sweet Lulu, and she’ll move seamlessly from the illness that sidelined a career as a registered nurse to the search for Lulu, a 1955 Aljoa, to her love of all things vintage.
Ask her to name a favorite flower and she’s derailed. “It’s like asking what my favorite potato chip is,” she laughs, starting a long pause. “But I really love dahlias. They’re so delicate in appearance that people want to touch them.”
After another pause, she realizes she shouldn’t slight the flower that set the stage for her 1996 wedding to husband Frank. “That was the era of Martha Stewart and I absolutely loved her,” she says. “She had lisianthus in her wedding book.” So Lerga had lisianthus at her wedding. “I like so many kinds,” she says wistfully. “I like hollyhocks, too.”
It’s this genuine love of flowers and people and the stories of vintage items that makes Love, Sweet Lulu such a perfect new endeavor for Lerga. She began parking Lulu outside of places such as Joshua Tree store in Visalia and Cafe Smitten in Bakersfield in October of last year, selling flowers from the little trailer to people drawn not only to the plants, but to the trailer itself.
“I’m actually going to refer to her as ‘her’,” Lerga says of the Aljoa that took on the moniker given to Lerga’s 7-year-old daughter, Lacy. “We always call her Lulu.” The trailer sat in the Lergas’ yard for about a year and a half before being called to the flower business. “Our daughter used it for a playhouse,” she says with a laugh.
While Lulu the trailer is now turning heads and starting conversations with all who see her, she wasn’t always that way. “Honestly, when I first looked at her she looked like something that came from the Sanford and Son’s junkyard,” says Lerga. “But I just loved it. It was structurally sound and it didn’t have any leaks.”
Michelle and Frank set out to fix up the trailer to showcase Michelle’s vintage items and flowers, transforming her into a place of wonder and joy. “I take the things to the flower trailer that I love. And the textures that I love. I have a lot of vintage treasures so I was able to pull from all of those,” she says. “I always joke that I could actually stay in there.”
The result is something beyond her imagination. “I knew that people would love to give flowers and to get flowers, but it’s so much more,” she says with awe. “You almost see this childlike experience when people step into the trailer.” They linger. They visit. They ask questions.
“We get so busy with technology and our lives that are so crazy,” says Lerga. “but it feels like people can just stop here. That’s my favorite thing about the trailer.” She recalls the joy of a man passing by in his pick-up truck while Lulu was parked outside of Joshua Tree. He and his three dogs all stared Lulu down, then promptly backed up the wrong way down a one-way street to relay the fun of seeing an Aljoa like the one he and his brothers had spent so much time in as children.
Love, Sweet Lulu has been the perfect transition from Lerga’s life as a nurse. “This has become what I do,” she says. “It’s very therapeutic. I wanted to have contact with people and do something that brought people joy or helped people.”
It’s also a family endeavor that has extended the Lergas’ photo booth business, an endeavor that came before Lulu. Frank puts things together. Son, Alex, 14, is studying to help with the photo booth. Little Lacy, 7, chips in wherever she can. “The flower trailer is my favorite thing, though,” says Lerga.
Love, Sweet Lulu has profiles on Instagram and Facebook that tell people her whereabouts. While it is focused on pop-up events at the moment, business will extend to bridal and baby showers, where flower crowns can be made for guests.
While big life and job transitions aren’t always easy to navigate, Lerga has found her new happy spot with Love, Sweet Lulu. “There’s been so much support and love,” she says. “It’s been awesome.”•
Love, Sweet Lulu • (559) 719-0614
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