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  • Flowers Spoken Here, Part 2
    By Valerie J. Nelson

    Securing Business

    Once florists feel they have a relatively firm grasp of a specific culture's floral ways, these florists feel more comfortable reaching out to that audience. Liz Seiji, Edelweiss Flower Boutique in Santa Monica, Calif., brings Mexican-American business into her shop through ads she places in the programs at the half-dozen Catholic churches near her shop. She makes sure the ads say, in Spanish, that the shop does quinceañeras and that Spanish is spoken there.

    "It's fun when they first walk in here," Seiji says. "They think we don't know anything, but my girls really help. The fact that they speak Spanish makes a good impression on the customers."

    Florists also advertise in publications such as newspapers or newsletters that target specific ethnic populations. In the ad she places in a quarterly journal aimed at the Los Angeles area's Japanese population, Seiji makes it a point to comment on an upcoming Japanese celebration while mentioning that her shop regularly wires flowers to Japan. The name Edelweiss — a moniker she inherited from the previous owner — also inadvertently pulls in another group of ethnic customers: Swiss and Germans, who seek out the shop to place wire orders to Europe or to buy their annual Advent wreaths.

    The Flower Girl, a shop in a Chinese neighborhood in San Francisco, doesn't specifically target Asians or other ethnic groups except for placing an ad on a Japanese cable TV channel, says Van Obermuller, who owns the shop with his wife, Mieko. "We're in such an ethnically diverse neighborhood and city, that we don't have to do much more than that," he says. Still, as a quiet reminder, his wife makes sure her maiden name — Takahashi — appears on her business cards.

    Standing Out

    Often, florists let their flowers speak for themselves — in the right place. Frank Laning, AIFD, AAF, PFCI, who owns Flowers by Frank Laning in Chappaqua, N.Y., keeps his work before the Jewish community by being the florist for several temples. Ty Leslie, AIFD, a floral designer who works for an Atlanta wholesale company, donates flowers to ethnic festivals in his community to help forge a link with the celebrating population. "It all boils down to letting people know you have merchandise they might be interested in," Leslie says.

    When Leslie lived in Charleston, S.C., he pulled in a lot of new clients by donating flowers for opening-night receptions at a theater company. He put a cultural spin on his work by trying to pick up on the theme of the evening, turning out arrangements in a French style for a Moliere play, for example.

    "I picked up a lot of new customers who may not have wanted that particular style but who loved the fact I was willing to explore different approaches," he says. "You've got to make people aware that you are open to learning about different styles."

    At a flower show in the Southeast, Leslie worked with a friend to create European-style designs. Americans passed them by, he says, but people from Europe stopped to chat about the arrangements. By choosing to interpret another culture's design style, Leslie says he picked up four potential clients. "A woman from Germany was just amazed that somebody in Georgia understood the appeal of bare branches and overhanging vines," he says. "It made me stop and think, because here was someone who wanted to spend money on flowers but who thought she couldn't find what she wants at a flower shop."

    By making an effort to determine the needs of different ethnic groups in your area, you may also end up with an unexpected byproduct. "It not only increases your sales," Leslie says. "It makes you more sensitive to other people and to where they are coming from." In other words, it broadens your horizons. 


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