Gordon Andrews lives just a couple of blocks from the Norm Dicks Government Center in downtown Bremerton and he couldn’t be a better neighbor.
For the past few years, thanks to Andrews, the building’s spacious lobby has come alive with splashes of color. A rotating exhibit of his large-scale floral arrangements sits on the reception desk, catching the eyes of folks working in the building or just passing through to get a permit, find housing help or attend a meeting.
“The biggest thing is to see the reaction of how it affects people and what it means to them,” Andrews said. “Most people, men or women, it doesn’t matter, say, ‘I’m so-and-so and this is the department I work in.’ I just want to make a difference in what their day is about.”
Andrews started donating the displays a few years ago after Mayor Patty Lent noticed one of his arrangements at the nearby YWCA shelter. Lent worked with others in the building to get the green-light for Andrews to share similar displays in the lobby of the government center, free of charge.
“It’s free and Bremerton loves free,” Andrews said. “It doesn’t support me financially, but I survive. I like natural beauty and this rejuvenates who I am.
The arrangements, of course, aren’t actually free. Andrews estimates that he could probably charge $2,500 or more for each of the arrangements, which he calls event pieces.
“I don’t do small really well,” Andrews said. “FTD? No. Small? No. Baby’s breath? No. What’s acceptable? No.”
It’s a labor of love that Andrews is happy to provide to brighten a person’s day and get them thinking.
“Everybody always wants government to do things,” Andrews said. “I believe we are government. If you want something you have to help. Everything was being cut back and this was something I felt that I could do that could make a difference. It’s what I believe in.”
Andrews moved to Bremerton in 2005 from San Francisco, where he worked for wealthy private clients in huge mansions that often included floral rooms, ball rooms and elevators. He also had his own shop for a time.
“I was very lucky to find a clientele that accepted me,” Andrews said. “When I moved from Minnesota to San Francisco I had acquired a kind of style I was known for.”
That style tends to celebrate the natural and is influenced by Japanese and German design concepts, but isn’t afraid to take some risks.
“Nowadays, anybody’s a designer,” Andrews said. “They think they can do whatever they want. It doesn’t matter who they are or what business they are in. Of course, (when I started) things had a right way and a wrong way. Nowadays, there are people who say that doesn’t exist.”
There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into each event piece in the government center lobby. Andrews has to envision a concept in his mind, secure hard-to-find materials from thrift shops or friends and work on it at home knowing what it will look like in the lobby. Then he has to transport everything.
“Now I’m getting tired of hauling all that crap from my house to here,” he joked, later noting he doesn’t drive a car. “It’s a lot of work to pull everything out of storage into my apartment just to see what I need or go find what I need. But I still like it. I love what I do.”
And Bremerton is all the better for it.
“It’s a beautiful area,” Andrews said. “I don’t think people here realize what a gift they have.”