Town & Country Markets, a family-owned chain of six neighborhood grocery stores based in Bainbridge Island, Wash., began selling cut ﬂowers in the mid-1980s after its owners participated in an industry trip to Holland and placed an order for six container loads of Dutch ﬂowers.
As current ﬂoral category manager Melanie Cherry retells company lore, that one-time bulk purchase launched Town & Country’s original ﬂoral department, which subsequently transitioned into a regular practice of buying seasonal ﬂowers from locals, including hobbyists with large cutting gardens. “Local has always been important to us and our customers,” she says. With growth and expansion of T&C’s Floral Shop, buying from the lady down the street with a gorgeous backyard has given way to established farm-direct programs sourcing from growers in Washington, Oregon and California, she says.
For the past two years, T&C partnered with a number of regional and domestic farms for its American Flowers Week (June 28-July 4) promotion, using the campaign as a vehicle to sell and highlight locally grown ﬂowers during the holiday week leading to Independence Day. In addition to direct-farm purchases, T&C’s ﬂoral buyers work with the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative that represents ﬂower farms in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, to customize a diverse selection of ﬂowers and foliages.
Each T&C ﬂoral department uses in-store signage to highlight American Flowers Week, and managers “compete” in challenges to design special ﬂoral displays for the week.
T&C Floral Shop staff created “ﬂoral fascinators” to wear during American Flowers Week 2017 as a fun way to stimulate conversations with customers. The 2017 American Flowers Week branding featured sunﬂowers, including campaign graphics provided by SlowFlowers.com, which provided the T&C Floral Shop on Bainbridge Island a perfect showcase for local sunﬂowers harvested just miles away.
T&C’s popular single stem program is featured below, with a rainbow-array of ﬂowers from farms and growers in the Paciﬁc Northwest and outside states.
At T&C’s Bainbridge Island store, Floral Manager Denise Johnson created a display with a vintage USA state ﬂowers map and a little red wagon ﬁlled with local cuts. At T&C’s Ballard Market in Seattle, Floral Manager Kristen Parris and her team displayed buckets of bunches and bouquets on a wooden market cart with signage declaring “We Love Our Local Flower Farmers.”
Across the chain, staﬀ ﬂorists added American Flowers Week bouquet labels to alert their consumers about the origin of the ﬂowers on display. Customers are also encouraged to assemble their own arrangements from the “single stems” wall of blooms, where all stems are $1.50 and the selection at the peak of sum-mer is more than 100 choices. The Fourth of July promotion coincides beautifully with eagerly awaited local sunﬂowers grown at Bainbridge Island’s MiddleField Farm, owned by the Nakata family, whose patriarch co-founded T&C Markets in 1957.
“Typically, the Fourth of July is not a huge ﬂower week,” Denise Johnson points out. “Instead, people tend to buy potted plants for the patio and outdoor entertaining. So it was fun to be able to promote locally grown ﬂowers as a new holiday. I’m proud of the way we created an interest and huge awareness.”
Johnson describes T&C’s shoppers as “conscious about their global footprint,” consumers who are aware of third-party sustainability labeling programs like ‘Salmon Safe’ and local sourcing.
Last year during American Flowers Week, the staﬀ at T&C’s Bainbridge Island store designed and modeled “ﬂoral fascinators” to raise awareness and present locally grown botanicals as fashion. “We have the most creative staﬀ, and for us, it was the joy of creating something to display during American Flowers Week and share with our customers,” Denise adds.
Last year during American Flowers Week, I shadowed ﬂower farmer Steve Pabody, partner in Triple Wren Farms with his wife Sarah. The couple’s Ferndale, Wash., ﬂower farm makes weekly deliveries to Cone & Steiner, an innovative new-old neighborhood convenience store with three Seattle locations.
Steve delivered bunches of lovely Anemones and mixed bouquets arranged in Mason jars – all labeled American Flowers Week to Seattle-based Cone & Steiner. Owner Dani Cone gladly received the blooms, which she says are perfect for “our model as a small local grocery market – the updated corner store.”
Cone & Steiner was inspired by Dani’s great-grandfather’s mercantile, which had the same name and operated in Seattle a century ago. Like the Cone & Steiner of 1915, today’s boutique chain “is where you go for food basics but also where you run into people and hear news,” Dani says. “It’s a hub of community. And that’s what we’re trying to bring to these dense urban neighborhoods.”
There is an emphasis on local artisan selections, including wine and beer, cheeses, breads, and other specialty items. “Customers want to know where our products are coming from, and they care about local,” Dani explains. “Our ﬂowers are right out front because this area is the gateway to the store – the red carpet, if you will. Being able to feature local ﬂowers, especially our favorites from Triple Wren Farms, is the best way we could welcome customers into the store.”
Finding locally grown ﬂowers was part of Dani’s original planning for Cone & Steiner, which opened in 2014. “I was lucky to ﬁnd Triple Wren Farms,” she says. “We constantly get compliments on these, and they consistently sell out because they’re uniquely beautiful and local.”
Cone & Steiner uses chalkboard signage to highlight a variety of ﬂowers from Triple Wren Farms, including Mason jar bouquets, parchment-wrapped mixed bouquets and a grower’s bundle option.
Last year, Steve Pabody (left), partner in Triple Wren Farms, delivered American Flowers Weekbranded bouquets and bunches to Dani Cone (right), owner of Seattle’s Cone & Steiner, a modern urban convenience market. A detail of the highly diverse Triple Wren bouquet, labeled for American Flowers Week at Cone & Steiner.
Whole Foods’ Market Mt. Washington, Md., branch in the Baltimore region adapted the signature American Flowers Week logo for in-store signage during the 2017 campaign, alerting customers to the diversity of selection from nearby ﬂower farms.
WHOLE FOODS CELEBRATES AMERICAN FLOWERS WEEK
Staﬀ at the Mt. Washington branch of Whole Foods Market in Baltimore, Md., have participated in American Flowers Week during the past two years, most recently centering their eﬀorts around an over-the-top ﬂoral display embellished with the red-white-and-blue campaign branding.
According to Diana Westcott, Whole Foods Market’s regional ﬂoral buyer for the Mid-Atlantic region (based in Landover, Md.), Whole Foods has always featured local ﬂowers in season. “To us, ‘local’ means grown within 100 miles of the store.”
During the June 28-July 4 campaign week, the staﬀ promoted in-season botanicals sourced from ﬂower farms in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. “The Mt. Washington store really supports the American Flowers movement,” Diana explains. “The timing for American Flowers Week is perfect, as far as we’re concerned. There’s such high productivity among the local farms then.”
T&C’s Bainbridge Island store created an eyecatching American Flowers Week display for 2016 with a USA map, ﬂags and a vintage red wagon.
As the district’s regional ﬂoral buyer, Diana supports Whole Foods stores in six states and the District of Columbia. “All our stores have local ﬂowers, and, in fact, we maintain an inventory here at the district warehouse of locally grown ﬂowers. That way, our ﬂoral managers can order and receive fresh local product every day,” she says. This ﬂoral purchasing model allows for targeted in-store messaging and labeling as well as improved staﬀ product knowledge, with the goal of helping inform shoppers about their choices.
With American Flowers Week’s alignment with the July 4th holiday, Diana says the timing “absolutely” provides a new opportunity to boost ﬂoral sales. “It’s a great opportunity to inspire shoppers about the stories behind the ﬂowers they buy.”