feature story

Making Her Way: Pam March, of Every Blooming Thing, finds success through tireless effort and staying true to her course.
   
by Shelley Urban

    In 1977, when Pam March decided to open a brand-new flower shop in Salt Lake City, Utah, which she would dub Every Blooming Thing, she knew her path to success would not be an easy one.  But, as a single parent whose first flower shop, in Ogden, Utah, had been a casualty of divorce proceedings, she also knew that failure was not an option.

     Perhaps the most important bit of knowledge Mrs. March held onto was a crystal-clear vision of the type of florist she wanted to be—a purveyor of high-end, quality products that offer beauty and value (rather than rock-bottom price) marketed to affluent clients in Salt Lake and surrounding communities. This focus influenced every decision she made, and from this plan, Mrs. March has never wavered. “Having a clear picture of who I wanted to be has been my greatest asset,” she declares. “And now, we’re living the dream that I envisioned more than 30 years ago.”

    Completing the picture, she adds, is the honor of being selected the 2009 “Retail Florist of the Year,” an annual contest co-sponsored by Florists’ Review and the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA). In 2008, Every Blooming Thing won the “Outstanding Marketing and Promotions” category (see August 2008, Page 53). The company was nominated by Ensign Wholesale Floral in Salt Lake City. “We are absolutely thrilled!” Mrs. March exclaims.

 

  Every Blooming Thing at a glance  
 

Owner: Pam March
Number of shops: 2
Location: Salt Lake City and Draper, Utah
Opened: 1977 (Salt Lake City)
Shop size: 3,000 square feet at each location
Clientele: mostly affluent men and women ages 35-80
Average sale of all merchandise:  $65-$85
Average fresh flower sale:  $65-$100
Annual sales volume: approximately $1 million; 80 percent in Salt Lake City, 20 percent in Draper
Number of employees: 12, all full time
Web site: www.everybloomingthing.cc

 

a place to call home
    The first step toward the fulfillment of Mrs. March’s dream was to select a location. When she laid eyes upon an 1893 French Victorian home, she knew, just as Brigham Young declared when he and his fellow Mormon pioneers happened into Salt Lake Valley, that this was “the right place.” The home, she says, had been vacant for two years, “and the grass was up to my armpits. But it ‘spoke’ to me. It needed TLC, and so did I.”

    While it was a perfect match for the type of business Mrs. March envisioned, transforming the neglected house into a fabulous flower shop required considerable effort in a limited time frame. “We wanted to be open before the holiday season, so we worked day and night for three months and opened in September,” she recalls.

    Surprisingly, the historic building had never been remodeled, so it retained its original beauty, including two parlors, exquisite stained glass and five working fireplaces (although they’ve never been used in the flower shop) featuring hand-cast tiles. The five gorgeous mantels display some of the shop’s gifts and home accessories with Old-World elegance.

    Today, Mrs. March describes the 3,000-square-foot home as an “oasis in a sea of concrete and asphalt. When people see our building, it’s a respite for the eyes and is part of our business’s charm,” she adds. Likewise, the store in Draper, Utah, which opened in 2007, stands out as well because it, too, is in a charming old home.

     But just as the Salt Lake Valley proved to be a bit treacherous to those early settlers, starting over proved a bit challenging for Mrs. March as well. “We slept in sleeping bags on the floor upstairs while, [downstairs], we were working hard to make the shop posh and upscale,” she explains. “Appearance and presentation are everything, even if I’m eating ramen noodles, which I did quite often in those days.” She lived by the motto, “Do whatever it takes,” which, she says, applies as much now as it did then.

 

staying connected
   
With sales down approximately 30 percent from last year—hovering around the $1 million mark, 80 percent of which comes from the main shop in Salt Lake City—Mrs. March is back in “whatever it takes” mode, putting, as she did in the early days, “every ounce of energy into making [this business] succeed,” she says. So she’s not waiting for clients to come to her; she’s going to them. “We have to actively seek out new business, and if we want to do that, we have to be players. We have to be involved,” she admonishes.

    For nearly 20 years, Mrs. March has been one of just a few women active in her local Rotary. In addition, she and members of her staff are directors on several boards around Salt Lake City, including a major bank, the opera guild, a world-renowned dance company and much more. The reason? “Even in the corporate world,” she reports, “companies do not do business with companies; people do business with people. Take good care of the people you do business with.”

    The shop and staff are also active participants in multiple fundraisers and other events throughout the year. “We participate in everything,” she assures. The result is strong business-to-business relationships that, despite tough economic times, still yield Every Blooming Thing 50 percent of its annual revenues.

    Mrs. March proactively seeks new individual accounts as well, primarily by positioning her product in locations frequented by her target clientele. “I just made a ‘cold call’ to a high-profile restaurant to offer them a free weekly bouquet, which we would display with our card,” she reports.

    While the no-cost offer brings in no new money for Every Blooming Thing, the exposure to the restaurant’s wealthy diners, as well as a relationship with the restaurateur, are the initial goals. “The bouquet will probably have a $65 value, but it will cost us almost nothing to produce. And our product is our best advertisement, so this is a great way to reach our target clients and to establish a new [commercial] relationship at very low cost,” Mrs. March explains.

supporting the arts
    This strategy of positioning her shop’s products in high-profile locations frequented by wealthy clientele is one that Mrs. March has employed since her early days, when she began offering floral décor for various venues, such as that of the Utah Opera, whenever a new performance opened. As a result, the shop’s following within the arts community is especially strong.

    So it’s fitting, then, that both Every Blooming Thing locations are complete with art galleries, each of which houses an array of original works from up-and-coming artists ranging in price from $395 to $4,000. The displayed works, which could include paintings, pottery, jewelry and other types, attract art buyers on a daily basis. Each month, a “gallery stroll”—during which several area galleries open for evening gatherings—highlights featured artists.

  
Orchids, as well as other tropicals, are often featured in the shops’ design work.


Every creation is custom-designed, and Mrs. March says her shop is known to “push the envelope,” as this artful contemporary piece demonstrates.

Robert Upwall, general manager; Pam March, owner; and Mark Abbott, manager of the store in Draper, Utah, don their evening attire for the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company’s annual benefit, Cabaret of Fools, which the company sponsors with auction donations and floral décor.
 

     Pieces are typically on display for 30 days and, if they’re not sold, are replaced with new items, often in different mediums. “We like to shake it up with different types of work, but we evaluate the pieces and are selective about what we display,” shares Mrs. March. “And we’re different from other galleries in that we give the artists 60 percent of the sale rather than 50 percent,” she says, which is, perhaps, why artists seek out Every Blooming Thing to host their exhibits.

    Once or twice a year, when an artist has something especially wonderful to offer, the shops host special-invitation events with fabulous food, live entertainment and more. Every Blooming Thing foots the bill, but Mrs. March says the cost is worth it because these events reach sophisticated fine-art buyers. “We invite our own clients as well as those from the artists’ client lists, which gives us access to these consumers for our ongoing marketing,” she elaborates.

    Recently, with an upcoming one-woman art show in the works, Every Blooming Thing was already bustling with buyers. According to Mrs. March, three pieces sold before the show even opened. “The artist had to find items to fill the spots, but we’re definitely not turning down any business,” she adds.

One of the two parlors in the Salt Lake City shop showcases merchandise much as it might be displayed in homes—on mantels, atop pianos (actually, an antique harmonia in this case) and tucked into the niche under the grand staircase.

high-tech consultations
    Weddings are another important area of business. The shops book approximately 115 to 120 per year, which account for about 30 percent of annual revenues. Prices typically range from $2,800 to $5,000. “Weddings,” Mrs. March says, “have been wonderful in helping keep us afloat [over the past several months]. Most,” she elaborates, “were planned and saved for before the economy went in the Dumpster, so wedding prices are still strong.”

    Moving forward, the shop is prepared to transform even more wedding consultations into booked events with new technology added to the Salt Lake shop’s bridal gallery, which Mrs. March describes as a “darling room” that features a fireplace and is furnished with a daybed, a sofa, and a table and chairs, “so we can accommodate large groups—the entire family,” she adds.
 
   Recently added to the gallery is a big-screen television and Apple TV, which enables digital photos to be transmitted wirelessly for viewing on the new big screen. “This system is phenomenal!” exclaims Mrs. March. “We can show brides their chosen venues, and seeing our work in their wedding or reception locations is the biggest selling point,” she reports. Consultants also can show just samplings of bouquets or just centerpieces, which helps during the planning phases.

    Pepper Nix, a photographer who also caters to a wealthy clientele and who shares her photographs of Every Blooming Thing’s wedding décor, convinced Mrs. March, a self-described “techno-phobe,” to try the new system. “It’s incredibly easy to use, and my total investment was less than $1,000,” Mrs. March recalls.

    The shop’s Web site, www.everybloomingthing.cc, also features the same types of images as can be shown on the Apple TV set-up. It, too, captures bridal customers. Of course, there’s no substitute for the real thing, so Every Blooming Thing participates in a large bridal show every year. While Mrs. March acts as a commentator for the fashion show, her designers’ bouquets are carried down the runway. “We contribute all the bouquets on stage,” she confides.

responding to challenges
    After more than 30 years in business, Every Blooming Thing has seen its share of good times and weathered its share of storms, so Mrs. March is able to see today’s challenges through the perspective of experience. “We will succeed,” she assures, “because we have to. But we are doing things differently, some of which we should have done five years ago.”

    For example, while the shops never use design “recipes,” every design requires a list of ingredients as built, complete with retail pricing, so customers know exactly what they’re being charged for. “This also prevents us from adding extra flowers until the arrangement looks ‘just right,’” adds Mrs. March.

    Likewise, customers are paying more attention to cost now as well. “We never presented ourselves as low budget,” Mrs. March shares, “and customers never ordered based on price. Now, though, they’re asking what they can get for $85 or $100.”

    Keeping sales strong to these customers is all a matter of presentation, notes Mrs. March. “Don’t ever ask, ‘What’s your budget?” she admonishes. “Start high, with a question like, ‘Are you thinking something in the $75 to $100 price range?,’ and if they gasp, then work your way down to a price that’s comfortable,” she explains.

    The shop’s minimum is $40, for which customers are assured they’ll receive something “small but lovely.” Most fresh flower sales are in the $65 to $100 price range, which remains consistent over previous years. Seventy-five percent of the shop’s sales is fresh flowers.

    Sales of all merchandise, however, have dropped just a bit from an average of $85 to prices in the $65 to $85 range. Nonfloral products, such as giftware and home accessories, account for most of the remaining 25 percent. The most popular among these categories are candles, pampering products, wall décor and high-end kitchen wares, all of which range in price from $10 to $350.

fulfilling the dream
   
Hard times are known to bring out either the best in folks or the worst, and in the case of Mrs. March and her fellow Utah florists, the economy has brought out the best.
 
Perfectly coordinating companion pieces of varying sizes, such as this gardeny trio, are often used to accessorize multiple tabletops at weddings and events.

Weddings account for approximately 30 percent of the company’s annual revenues. To keep this business strong, Every Blooming Thing keeps its work in the public eye, donating bouquets to bridal shows and wedding-related publications for photo shoots.

   
Floral head pieces are popular for flower girls; this one is fashioned in the style of a wreath.

  
The shop has accumulated a wealth of props over the years and makes most of them available for wedding work at no additional cost.

Together, they, along with Ensign Wholesale Floral, are revitalizing an organization of Utah’s floral professionals called the Utah Professional Florists Association. At the organization’s kick-off event, each florist brought an arrangement. Afterward, Every Blooming Thing’s delivery staff transported all the arrangements to Salt Lake City’s hospitals, convalescent homes and the like. Mrs. March explains the philosophy: “Even when times are tough, we still want to do good in the world.”

    As a regular contributor to and participant in charitable events, Mrs. March is no stranger to doing good. Perhaps dearest to her heart is “Blooming Hope,” a charitable floral design event that she established to raise money for a local children’s hospital. Part of an annual home and garden festival, Blooming Hope features the shop’s design work, which is later auctioned. “We raised $6,100 in just two hours this year,” points out Mrs. March, who, along with a local television anchor person, is a commentator at the event. Ensign Wholesale helps to make Blooming Hope possible as well, with excellent pricing and product donations when possible.
 


Like every employee, General Manager Robert Upwall is ready to serve customers, even as he creates a stylish design.
             
Topiaries are the shop’s signature arrangement, but their styles vary; they may be sleek and modern or infused with gardeny charm.

    While this event is a highly public way for the shop to display its caring attitude, a reflection of the owner’s attitude, no doubt, the daily kindnesses along the way are what have earned tremendous customer loyalty. “As we deal with individuals, we find so many opportunities to be thoughtful and caring when families are most in need of support,” Mrs. March shares.

    This, she says, is among her highest honors as a florist—to be able to make a difference when people need it the most. “For example, when a family has lost a child, we serve them as we do every customer, but in the end, we never charge them. There isn’t that much cost involved, and it’s a way for us to show kindness in a time of need,” she explains.

Clearly, the shop has made a mark on its communities, and, says Mrs. March, “The employees who’ve been here have all had an impact on us as well. We’re meant to be here,” she adds—for themselves and their community. As a result, she hopes to help other florists achieve their dreams as well, offering to mentor anyone who needs guidance while trying to make their own way through challenging times.
 
Powerful Partners: Ensign Wholesale Floral

After receiving the “Retail Florist of the Year” award for 2009, Pam March poses with some of the folks who have helped make her dream a reality. From left are Mark Jackson, general manager of Ensign Wholesale Floral; Robert Upwall, general manager of Every Blooming Thing; Mrs. March; John March, accountant for Every Blooming Thing; and Taylor Vriens, who owns Ensign Wholesale Floral. Photo courtesy of WF&FSA

    Pam March, owner of Every Blooming Thing in Salt Lake City, Utah, who was selected as the 2009 “Retail Florist of the Year,” says she purchases at least 80 percent of her fresh flowers and supplies from Ensign Wholesale Floral, also in Salt Lake City (and Ogden, Utah). “They are our biggest partners,” she relates. “We support them, and they support us, making so much of what we do possible.”

    Mark Jackson, Ensign Wholesale Floral’s general manager, who nominated Every Blooming Thing for this year’s contest, shares that the relationship is mutually beneficial. “It’s one of the best business partnerships anyone could want. Every Blooming Thing is a great shop that’s very active in the community, and we’re pleased to help wherever we can because the shop’s ‘causes’ are important to us as well.”

    Mr. Jackson reports that, in his four years with Ensign Wholesale, he’s been impressed with the shop’s passion for the floral industry and their love of people. He cites the latter as an important reason for the shop’s three decades of success. “They have the attitude that customers are more than just customers, they’re family and, as a result, they’ve built long-term relationships in the community. And they turn out beautiful products, too,” he adds.

    Ensign Wholesale serves all of the Beehive State, as Utah is known, as well as parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada. For more information about Ensign Wholesale Floral, call (801) 359-8746, or visit www.ensignfloral.com.

    To learn more about the “Retail Florist of the Year” contest, visit www.floristsreview.com, or contact us at (800) 367-4708. Visit the Web site of our co-sponsor, WF&FSA, at www.wffsa.org,  or call (888) 289-3372

Contact Shelley Urban at surban@floristsreview.com or (800) 367-4708.

Images by Pepper Nix Photography; Salt Lake City, Utah and Orange County, Calif.


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