pillar of service

In business for more than a century, Aebersold Florist forges into the future with strong ties to its Indiana communities.
  by Kelsey E. Smith

     When David Aebersold’s grandfather, Alfred, opened his flower shop in New Albany, Ind., Theodore Roosevelt was in the Oval Office, a postcard cost only 1 cent to mail and flowers were delivered by horse and buggy. That was in 1908, and today, more than 100 years later, David and his wife Lana, along with their daughter Lara Aebersold Collett, who serves as the business’s manager, are the third and fourth generations leading Aebersold Florist. The business’s longevity is due, in part, to its strong ties to New Albany as well as Sellersburg, Ind., where the Aebersolds opened their second location in 2003. The business has left its mark on both communities through involvement in organizations and activities of all variety and has earned the award for “Outstanding Community Involvement” in our 2010 “Retail Florist of the Year” contest, co-sponsored by the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA). Aebersold’s was nominated by its wholesaler, Doran-Engel Co., in nearby Louisville, Ky.

fountain of youth
     Though many of Aebersold’s customers have been loyal to the business for several decades, Mrs. Aebersold says it is important to develop positive relationships with children as well. In fact, that’s how many older customers became loyal to the business in the first place. Mr. Aebersold’s father, Stanley, who was active in the business until his death in 1999, began giving tours of the flower shop and greenhouses to elementary schoolchildren in 1950. “Our customers, even today, tell us that they remember coming through the greenhouses as children,” Mr. Aebersold notes.

     The Aebersolds have carried on this tradition, giving greenhouse tours to children by the busload each spring. Over the years, they have given away flowers, pencils and even T-shirts to their young visitors. The Aebersolds see the tours as an opportunity to educate future flower buyers as well as establish their loyalty, and it has worked. “These kids come back to buy their prom flowers and their wedding flowers,” Mrs. Aebersold relates. “I’ve already done three generations of weddings.”

     Mrs. Aebersold also is tied to children through her work on the board of a local youth shelter. She currently is the vice president of the board and will be president in 2011, and she often takes flowers to the shelter for the youth to enjoy.

service with a smile
     Well known in the community, Mrs. Aebersold is the incoming president for the New Albany Women’s Republican Club and has served as Third District Representative of the Floyd County Council for 13 years. She is running for re-election on the council this November. She also has held positions on the Southern Indiana Tourism Bureau, Metro United Way and Floyd County Council of the Arts. These are just a few of the myriad ways she serves the communities that support Aebersold Florist.

     Mr. Aebersold also has held prominent positions in the community, including president of the New Albany Industrial Foundation for more than 10 years. As business owners, both he and Mrs. Aebersold have been active in New Albany’s chamber of commerce, which is now known as One Southern Indiana. Mr. Aebersold was vice president and president of the organization in 1982 and 1983, respectively, and more recently, Mrs. Aebersold served several terms on its board of directors.

     Mrs. Aebersold relates that the networking opportunities they have had through their involvement with One Southern Indiana, as well as the myriad other organizations with which they are affiliated, have been invaluable.

     “It’s good to get involved with your chamber of commerce because you meet so many other businesspeople,” Mrs. Aebersold advises. “If you don’t have a chamber of commerce, just volunteer in some kind of organization. If you pick one thing and give it 100 percent, you’re going to make friends, and those friends are going to tell other people about you.”



encouraging others
     Several of Aebersold’s employees are active in the community as well, and some have even joined Mrs. Aebersold in her activities. “More than 50 percent of our employees do volunteer work,” she relates. “One sits on the Floyd County Health Board with me, and we go to the meetings together. And I asked another employee if she’d like to work the election polls in the fall and the spring, and she’s done that for several years now. Another one works the Harvest Homecoming Festival Pumpkin Decorating Contest, where I’m a judge.” (Mrs. Aebersold notes that the Harvest Homecoming Festival is the second-largest event in Indiana, behind the Indianapolis 500. In the past, Mr. Aebersold was vice president of the festival, and Mrs. Aebersold has been a judge of the pumpkin decorating contest for approximately 40 years.)

     Because community involvement is so important to the Aebersolds, they encourage it in their employees, despite having to sometimes tweak work schedules. “If they can change days with somebody, they just let us know, and if nobody is available to trade days, we make sure there’s no huge event coming up, and it usually works out fine,” Mrs. Aebersold explains.

double-duty donations
     Mrs. Aebersold shares that, in addition to helping community organizations with their needs, donations provide great exposure for Aebersold Florist. The company makes approximately 250 donations each year including monetary donations to charitable organizations such as United Way; gift certificates; and more expensive items such as monthly bouquets for a year, each valued at $60 retail, that the business donates for an auction to raise scholarship money for Indiana University Southeast, where Mrs. Aebersold has served on the Chancellors Advisory Board for the past five years. “People bid on it, and it raises money for the scholarships, but it’s also given us some new customers,” she says. “Even after they’ve received their year’s worth of flowers, they still order from us.”

     Mrs. Aebersold says the business rarely turns down donation requests, which must be made on the letterhead of the submitting company or organization and include the reason for the request and what the proceeds will be used for. She advises, however, that it’s important to be somewhat flexible, relating that a nearby middle school requested 25 carnations for its teachers for the first day of school, and the person requesting them did not have time to put the request in writing. “You have to have a little leeway, and that’s just good business, because they’re our neighbors,” she says. “When they buy flowers in the future, they’ll remember [how we accommodated their request].”

public praise
     In addition to being named the “Best Florist” of Floyd County by the readers of Louisville, Ky., newspaper The Courier-Journal, Aebersold Florist has received a number of other awards for its service to the community. The local chamber of commerce, One Southern Indiana, bestowed its “Small Business of the Year” award, for companies with 25 employees or fewer, upon the company in 2009.

     More recently, in May 2010, Personal Counseling Service in Clarksville, Ind., awarded the Aebersolds with the Norman Melhiser Samaritan Business Award (named after a well-respected community leader) in the “for profit” category. Along with this honor, they received a copy of a two-minute commercial-like video that was played at the awards ceremony, featuring footage of Mrs. Aebersold speaking about the business, with images from around the New Albany location. The video is posted on www.aebersoldflorist.com.

     Though awards are certainly a perk for Aebersold Florist—reinforcing the 102-year-old business’s image in New Albany and Sellersburg—they are just the proverbial icing on the cake compared to the benefits of serving both communities in business and society. “Giving back makes the world a better place, and whatever you do comes back tenfold,” Mrs. Aebersold says.
 
aebersold florist
 

Owners: David and Lana Aebersold
Locations: 2 (New Albany, Ind., and Sellersburg, Ind.)
Established: 1908
Shop sizes: 11,700 square feet in New Albany, about half of which is display area including two greenhouses; 1,200 square feet in Sellersburg, nearly 1,100 of which is display area
Clientele: mixed clientele including lots of young people at the New Albany location; higher income and more women at the Sellersburg location
Business breakdown: 75 percent of revenue is fresh flowers and plants; 25 percent is giftware
Average fresh flower sale: $45 to $50
Average sale of all merchandise: $75
Number of employees: 13 (10 full time; 3 part time)
Website: www.aebersoldflorist.com

 

a celebration to remember

 

     When Aebersold Florist commemorated its centennial anniversary in 2008, the whole community was abuzz—in part because of all the great events and giveaways. The yearlong celebration kicked off with an open-house reception in December 2007 attended by approximately 475 people including Teleflora Chairman Tom Butler, AAF, PFCI, who presented owners David and Lana Aebersold with a commemorative plaque. Mrs. Aebersold says the events throughout the year were “our way of thanking people for their support and of giving back to the community we have always called home.” Here are some other ways Aebersold’s shared its milestone with community members.

     Reception for former bridal customers.  Newspaper ads and fliers invited couples, widows and widowers whose weddings featured Aebersold’s flowers to “Be our special guests at a wedding reception for you!” The event drew approximately 25 couples whose wedding dates ranged from the 1940s to 2008, and customers were encouraged to bring their wedding photos in advance for a special display. Three $100 gift certificates were awarded—one to those who had been married the longest, one to the newest newlyweds and one via a random drawing of all who submitted their photos. The reception featured other local wedding vendors who traded their services, including a bakery that provided a tiered wedding cake.

     Honoring 100-year-olds.  To celebrate those who were born during the same year the business opened, Aebersold Florist delivered dozen-rose arrangements to centenarians in Clark and Floyd counties.

     Mother’s Day mutual anniversary giveaway.  Aebersold Florist hosted a drawing at each store for a $100 gift certificate to commemorate Mother’s Day, which also celebrated its centennial in 2008.

     Monthly giveaways.  The business held an ongoing drawing and awarded a $100 arrangement each month to a lucky winner.

     Random floral surprises.  Employees delivered more than 1,000 single red roses as random acts of kindness to the public throughout the spring and summer.

Contact Kelsey Smith at ksmith@floristsreview.com or (800) 367-4708

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