A business that has been around for over 50 years is an amazing feat. Let’s get to know the secrets behind the success of Marilyn’s Flower Shoppe on Main Street in Rockaway Borough.
Fifty one years in business is an amazing accomplishment. What are the secrets to your success?
Well if you asked my grandmother she’d say it’s because we’re just too stubborn to quit. I’d say creating and keeping good relationships with your customers is key. I think it says a lot when you know what your customers want and can anticipate having what they want when they need it. Like for Valentine’s Day we know what our regular customers are going to order and make sure we have it even before they place the order. We also try to keep track of our repeat customers’ likes, dislikes, and in some cases allergies so even when someone else orders for them we can make arrangements we know they will love.
How has the business changed since your grandmother started it?
Well if you want to get technical my grandfather was the one who started the business and he named it after her, of course the whole family has been involved since the beginning. But oh gosh a lot has changed! Back in 1970 you didn’t have nearly the amount of flowers you had to work with as you do now. Even if you just look at roses you had five colors you could buy (red, white, yellow, pink, and peach) and now there are hundreds. Back then a red rose was just a red rose while today off the top of my head I could list 10 different varieties of red roses alone (and I know there are more that I’m missing). Then of course the biggest changes occurred with the internet and e-commerce. Having a website where customers could order from us opened up our pool of direct customers drastically. Back when the business started if you needed to relay an order out to another state we had a large map of the United States that had a pin in it with a string at our location that you then would drag it to whichever state you were sending the order to and the length of the string dictated the cost of the sending fee. Obviously the process is a lot simpler today.
What has been your most unusual customer request? And your most popular request?
For the strangest I can think of a few. Most unusual delivery was when we had to deliver anniversary flowers to a woman who was a truck driver. Her husband called and asked us if we could deliver to her during her lunch break and explained to us where she would be parked and what her truck looked like so we could find her. Needless to say she was VERY surprised (and a little confused) when we pulled up in the delivery van and tapped on her window. I remember another customer that after finding out his wife was pregnant with their 5th child had us deliver a dozen roses to the house every hour during the day to represent each child and for the grand finale had two dozen roses delivered from himself. We’ve also had to make a lot of interesting pieces for funerals over the years, one that really stands out is a baby grand piano for an avid pianist.
Most popular requests are still the tried and true classic, roses. Of course we do the typical dozen but it’s also really common for the number sent to coincide with the reason for sending—i.e., if they are for a birthday, the age the lucky recipient is turning gets that many roses. Recently we arranged eighty yellow roses split
into two separate vases for an 80th birthday. And of course the same goes for anniversaries.
What advice would you give a new small business owner?
Prepare to be extremely hands-on. Whatever your business is, be sure you know how to work every part of it, even down to the little stuff. The phrase “I’m married to my work” is often used as a joke but if you want to be successful it really isn’t far from the truth. Oftentimes I have seen small businesses fail or struggle because the owners are not involved enough on the ground level. No one is going to be as invested in your business as you are.
Where do you see the Flower Shoppe in the next five years?
I’m really looking forward to doing some remodeling inside our store within the next year or so to give it a more updated look. I’d also love to expand the amount of greeting cards we carry and gift items from smaller independent illustrators, artists, and crafters. I love buying unique gifts for friends and family from smaller creators and would love to extend that to our customers.
What is a typical day like?
One of my favorite things about this business is there really isn’t a “typical” day here which is great if you’re like me and get bored easily. Some days you spend the majority of your day processing flowers, other days are more busy designing those said flowers and some days are more dedicated to what I call “sit down work” so you’re in front of a computer doing website updates, ordering product, planning social media posts, working on wedding quotes, and getting caught up on emails and general administrative stuff.
What is your favorite part of owning and running a flower shop?
Probably that you’re there to celebrate people’s absolute best days and are able to bring comfort on their worst ones. We see people through some of their biggest life milestones both happy and sad. With being here for 51 years we’ve developed long standing relationships with so many families. I’m 32 years old now and we have customers that remember me when I was a little kid playing with Barbies in the front of the shop. We’re now doing wedding flowers for brides that we have also done the flowers for their baptism back when they were obviously babies. Those relationships that have been developed over years and years are really special to me and not something many businesses can attest to.