Earlier this month, the same week Amazon became the most valuable publicly traded company — seemingly more evidence of the e-commerce giant’s retail dominance — another Washington-based business got behind the camera to trumpet the benefits of shopping small with people intimately tied to their community who are experts in their field and provide friendly, personal service.
In an interview for “Small Business Revolution,” a Hulu television program sponsored by Deluxe, David Boulton, AAF, PFCI, his wife, Stacy, and mother, Annalee, shared the history of their family’s business, Flowers by George (which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year), their love for their hometown (Arlington, a small city just north of Seattle) and the joy of helping people express their emotions through flowers.
Unbeknownst to the family, producers of the show have spent the past several months researching prospective communities to spotlight in the forthcoming fourth season. Starting with 100 small towns, they whittled the contenders down to 50, then 20 and then 10.
“At that point, they started visiting the finalists, canvassing the towns for a day or two and interviewing small business owners,” said David Boulton. The flower shop was among a handful of about 40 businesses in Arlington selected for filming. “They wanted a variety,” Boulton said. “We were chosen to represent the well-established local institution.”
Show hosts Ty Pennington and Amanda Brinkman spent about two hours at Flowers by George, named for George Boulton, a longtime Society of American Florists volunteer leader, who passed away last year.
“I showed them a picture of me as a three-year-old standing in the shop the day my dad bought it and talked about growing up in the business,” said Boulton, who used his anecdote as a springboard to discuss how the floral industry consists of many multi-generational businesses, be they growers, wholesalers or retailers. “I explained how we’re really all about people and relationships,” he said. “For me, that’s always been the draw of this industry.”
Boulton, a former SAF board member and a current trustee for the American Floral Endowment, didn’t have substantial lead time to prepare for the interview, but said he relied heavily on past training from SAF Vice President of Marketing Jennifer Sparks.
“All credit goes to Jenni,” he said. “I’ve listened to several of her PR boot camp webinars and convention programs. Her suggested talking points gave me confidence when I was in front of the camera.”
He quickly returned to Sparks’ guidance the following week, when a team from “Evening Magazine,” a Seattle-based program that airs on NBC immediately after the nightly news broadcast, visited the shop to cover Arlington’s place in the Small Business Revolution competition.
“This has really been a lot of fun,” said Boulton. “Right now, we’re in a holding pattern, but we’ll right the publicity wave as long as we can!”
Once the crew finishes filming in its top 10 small towns, producers will once again narrow down the field to a final five. “At that point, it becomes like all those reality talent shows,” Boulton said. “America will vote for their favorite small town.”
The winning town — and six of its small businesses — will receive $500,000 from Deluxe, a 104-year-old company that prints checks and offers custom marketing services for small businesses. The Hulu series will document how those businesses invest the prize money to enhance their brands. Season 1 featured Wabash, Indiana, in the heart of the Midwest. Season 2 featured historic East Coast river town, Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania. Season 3 featured Alton, Illinois, just outside of St. Louis.
“I think Arlington has a really good chance. This is a special community with a very powerful story,” Boulton said, referencing the Oso mudslide in March 2014, which occurred mere miles from Flowers by George and killed 43 people.
“People really rallied together to comfort one another in the wake of that tragedy,” he said. “Those 43 funerals spanned about eight weeks to avoid scheduling conflicts, because every person in town wanted to be at every service to show their respect for the life lost and their love and support for the surviving family.”
Katie Hendrick Vincent is the senior contributing editor for the Society of American Florists.