The Flower Shoppe moves up the street to Blaine
by Elyse Kaner, Staff Writer
on her customers' speed dials. Those who have cheated on her come back
and swear they'll never do it again. Some fear she has gone out of
But Mary Lou Box's The Flower Shoppe remains a constant in the Twin Cities northern suburbs.
summer, in her 40th year of operation, Box moved her popular business
one block north to 86th and Central Avenue in Blaine from her former
location on Spring Lake Park by Nicklow's Cafe & Bar.
The move affords her better visibility on Highway 65. Plus she has gone from 2,218 square feet to more than 2,600 square feet.
love it. Isn't it nice?" Box says, at her new shop as she gestures to
her surroundings, a fragrant and floral wonderland dressed in holiday
Still, she longs for a little more space for her vast inventory. For an office.
Not the usual shop
store isn't the usual flower shop. Her longevity speaks volumes to a
business that has survived four recessions and, consequently, a number
of floral boutiques and growers calling it quits.
A 20-year customer
stopped at her shop the other day. David Sathre of Fridley bought two
bright-red poinsettias. Box helped him sort through the flowers and
select the ones he wanted. He likes her personal service.
"I come here because she has super fresh stuff that lasts longer than any I've bought before," he said.
offers him help carrying the flowers to his car. "Is your trunk warm?"
she asks. Ultimately, she tucks a complimentary flower in with his
Poinsettias in shades of reds, peach, pale pinks, burgundies
and more, line the aisles of her store like toy soldiers as you walk
Decorations with splashes of gold and silver glitter and crystal glam up the displays.
But it it's the flowers that are the stars of the show.
in all colors. A pale shade of line, for instance. Dusty lilac. Calla
lilies in deep burgundy. Flowers with parents. Flowers with such beauty,
they almost take on a personality of their own begging shoppers to
"take me home."
Box, a resident of Spring Lake Park, had been thinking about moving her shop to gain more space.
space became available at the former Flavors Abroad, a Mid Eastern and
Asian specialty market at 8654 Central Ave., Box jumped at the
opportunity. And it was close to her former shop.
She now has more
shelving, more furniture. More space to display her glassware, vases,
cards, picture frames and such. And glorious flowers. Floral
arrangements, cut flowers, plants and more.
Box sells to small
businesses, corporations and the public. She is a wholesaler and
retailer. She sells sympathy flowers and flowers to the
Her poinsettias are Minnesota grown and most of
her flowers are purchase in the United States. She buys directly from
the grower, passing the savings along to her customers.
Many of her customers, ranging from low to high income, are relieved to find her in her new location.
"you're now on my speed dial," some say.
With others, her service has to relationship status.
I've cheated on you once. I'll never chart on you again," a return customer told Box. She's heard it more than once, she said.
Moving was hard
One Valentine's Day in 2005, she sold more than 65,000 roses.
Box, by the way, gives a complimentary flower with practically all purchases.
she declined to state revenue figures, Box did note that the cost to
move has been significant both in the loss of business and moving
She used funds from her business and personal savings to finance the move.
In her more than 40 years of business, this is Box's first relocation.
"I never dreamed it would be so hard," she said.
Packing and repacking thousands of pieces of merchandise. She is still unpacking. And things aren't in their usual places.
can be blindfolded and you know where everything is at, but you get
another 500 square feet and the disorientation has been tremendous," she
A built in freezer lines the back of the shop. But freezers are, well, unkind to flowers.
came up with a solution. She merely raised the temperature setting of
the cooler - 40 degrees. A perfect setting for her flower storage.
Industry standard for roses is about 34 degrees, Box says. But she finds
the flowers last longer at the higher temperature. "Customer after
customer has told us our flowers last longer," Box says. "We have a fast
rotation. That's why they last."
the years, Box has seen changes overtake the floral industry. Four
recessions. Competition from big box stores. New flowers, some with
patents. Growers and shops folding under the competition.
The floral design work has changed as well.
she first started in the business, every flower in a bridal bouquet was
hand wired, a time consuming task. The hand-wired trend moved to
hand-tied flowers in a holder and then to bouquets with stems showing.
Now, customers are again requesting flowers arranged in a holder for better hydration, Box said. The flowers last longer.
There's also a constant change of color trends as well.
and gold and aqua and silver are big now, Box said. especially for
weddings and Christmas trees. Champagne and off-white are popular as
well as red.
"Bronze is huge," she said.
Along with its beauty, the flower business comes with many challenges.
describes it as extremely intense labor for a small amount of profit.
There's a lot of heavy lifting. Some of the boxes are as long as
three-and-a-half feet. Some weigh 60 pounds.
"But when you open them
up and there are these gorgeous flowers and you say, on my gosh, what's
why I'm in the business," Box said. "Actually, this is aroma therapy in a
And there are the long hours. Box has pit in many a 14- and
15-hour days. "She's married to her business," said floral designer
Another challenge is estimating the amount of flowers Box needs to order.
"When you buy 10,000 carnations, two cents can make a difference," she says.
For now, she employs five part-time workers, incurring floral designers and staff.
She sold from a truck
her earlier years, Box had worked at a risk insurance company and she
styled wigs at Dayton's department store. But it was the floral industry
that won her over.
She started out small. From 1966 to 1970, she sold flowers from a truck at the corner of Central Avenue and 85th.
Business was so good, she opened a shop just across the highway.
"We'd pull people across the street to our new store and that's helped build up our business tremendously." she said.
Although she no longer sells on that particular corner, during East and Mother's
Day she does sell flowers on corners in Coon Rapids, Ham Lake and Spring Lake Park.
later opened kiosks at Ridgedale, Southdale, Burnsville, the Mall of
America and Rosedale. But the recession has been unkind to the satellite
shops. She now operates only her Rosedale location on weekends and
Starting in January at her new Blaine location, which she
is leasing, Box will offer floral design lessons for do-it-yourself
weddings and occasions. The new shop also is large enough to allow
customers to observe the floral designers at work.
Her dream, Box says, would be to purchase the building.
"Our hope is to stay in the business, flourish and expand," she said.
Box thinks about her customers she has met throughout four decades, her business, the challenges. The changes.
something you have to love and have a passion for," she said. "It's
physically and emotionally taxing. But how can you not want to be around
such beautiful things?"