A 31-year-old family-owned flower shop has a starring role in the latest season of “Small Business Revolution.” The series, sponsored by Deluxe and aired on Hulu, selects a different town each year and works with a handful of local institutions, highlighting their histories, relationships within their communities and challenges, and providing marketing and branding expertise to encourage their future success.
Season 5, Episode 3, features Fresh and Fancy Flowers in Fredonia, New York, which second-generation owner Charlotte Herlong runs with her son, Michael, who has a retinal disease that has severely reduced his eyesight.
“Their story really resonated with us,” said Amanda Brinkman, chief brand officer for Deluxe Corporation and the creator, producer and host of the series. “That Michael has a visual impairment and works in a highly visual industry struck us as heroic. We loved that it’s a generational shop, which is something that’s special about small businesses. And, while their designs were high quality, their showroom, website and marketing didn’t reflect that, and therefore they weren’t reaching their full potential. This was a great case study to show what an impact those things can have.”
The 30-minute episode dug into several challenges familiar to retail florists, including inventory management, visual merchandising, maximizing physical space (particularly during holiday rushes) and the pros and cons of belonging to a wire service. “We didn’t fully understand the idiosyncrasies of the floral industry before working with Charlotte and Michael,” Brinkman said. “I’m sure their story will be pretty eye-opening for most viewers too.”
Together with renovation icon Ty Pennington and florist mentor Amy Backman, of Spruce Flowers & Events in Minneapolis, Brinkman empowered the Herlongs to make a host of changes. Some were simple, such as tweaking the name “Fresh and Fancy Flowers & Gifts” to “Fresh & Fancy Floral Design Studio,” which has a more upscale, professional ring to it, and purging dated containers and accessories that were hogging valuable storage space. Others were more involved, such as gutting the showroom and restyling it to resemble an art gallery with a neutral palette (to make the flowers’ colors pop) and the design table centerstage (to encourage passersby to stop and watch the magic in the making).
Filming began in late February, less than a month before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted, well, everything.
“COVID definitely created challenges, both for production and Fresh & Fancy,” Brinkman said. “But it wasn’t hard to see some positive aspects as well.”
For instance, the renovation partially overlapped with the mandated shutdown — “a blessing and a welcome diversion from a difficult situation,” Michael Herlong said.
Then, when the shop was allowed to reopen, business came rapidly. “People couldn’t get together, but flowers could bridge the gap,” Brinkman said, adding that showing the Fresh & Fancy team making non-contact deliveries during a time of great stress and loneliness emphasized to viewers what a valuable service florists provide.
And, as the pandemic has made consumers even more reliant on online shopping, the shift to a new website with authentic photography, an intuitive menu and a detailed “About Us” section has taken on extra significance. “We’ve always preached how important it is to have a solid digital footprint, but that’s never been truer than it is now,” Brinkman said. “Right now, your online presence is the biggest tool for success. Retailers with a strong e-commerce site have been able to capture business even when they can’t physically welcome customers.”
To watch the episode, click here.
Katie Vincent is the senior contributing editor for the Society of American Florists.