Springfield, MO

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Business Spotlight: Coming Up Roses

Mears has delivered blooms to florists for nearly 75 years

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Just before Valentine’s Day, the National Retail Federation projected more than half of Americans planned to celebrate the holiday, and one-third of those would buy flowers for a loved one.

The blooms themselves likely began their lives some 3,000 miles away in Ecuador, according to Richard Stone, president of Mears Floral Products Inc., a flower wholesaler with its refrigerated warehouse on South Scenic Avenue in west central Springfield.

Preparation for Valentine’s Day began about two months before the holiday. Customers – florists and garden centers in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma – submit preorders, and the buyers at Mears predict add-on sales based on data from prior years. An order is then submitted to various Ecuadorean farmers, who cut and refrigerate blooms that they’ll send to Springfield via Miami. At other times of the year, flowers or greenery may originate in California, Oregon or Canada, Stone says.

The blossoms themselves are not the only component to a bouquet. Mears also fills orders for ribbon, vases and other hard goods in preparation for the holiday.

“Trucks start coming in at the very end of January into the first part of February, and then we really substantially have everything,” Stone says.

Orders are processed in advance so florists have time to design arrangements.

“Our major thrust is really all done before we get to Valentine’s Day,” Stone says.

Roughly 55% of Mears’ total holiday order is based on florists’ pre-orders. For the remainder, some careful guesstimates are needed to get the inventory just right, since flowers are perishable and must move quickly.

The fact is, more bouquets are sold when Valentine’s Day falls midweek than when it’s on the weekend. Stone declines to share revenue figures for the company, but he is upbeat as he comes out of a successful holiday.

“A Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday are actually excellent Valentine’s days,” Stone says. “If it’s the weekend, you’re not having flowers go to work where the co-workers get to see the arrangement.”

A history
Mears was founded in 1949 by Bob and Virginia Mears and was once known as Bob Mears Wholesale Florist before taking on the Mears Floral Products moniker.

The couple’s son Dave took over the business in 1973. He had been, teaching and working toward a doctorate in French and Italian literature at University of Missouri when he made a shift toward flowers, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Dave’s wife, Judy, ran the company with him until the two retired in the early 2000s.

Stone came on as president in October 2022, succeeding retiring Terry Dober in the role. Stone says his experience is not in flowers; rather, most of his 20 years in leadership positions have been spent in the medical sector.

But Stone says while the industry is new to him, it’s a business, and that’s something he understands well.

“There are really certain business understandings and concepts that you apply no matter what your niche is,” he says.

One element of that is doing right by customers: “It’s a matter of really looking at things from a customer perspective and designing your level of service, policies and practices around that very aspect right there,” he says.

Dealing with a perishable product is a significant difference in the floral industry, he says.

“It has a very short lifespan, and demand changes significantly day to day and week to week,” he says.

Stone says Mears takes care never to break what he refers to as the cold chain. Immediately after flowers are cut, they are put into cold storage, and they remain refrigerated until they are delivered to customers via refrigerated trucks owned by Mears.

“Not everybody does that,” he says. “It breaks usually with how they deliver to their customers. The advantage of never breaking the cold chain is it leads to a better-quality end product.”

Mears supplies flowers to about 300 florists in four states. Locally, some of its most longstanding customers are House of Flowers and Wickman’s Garden Village, which have been in business since 1965 and 1922, respectively.

A changing landscape
All industries experience change, through technology or cultural trends. Mears says the floral industry is very much in flux.

One big difference is in funeral customs.

“We’re seeing a decline in that, you know, as people move more to cremations and not traditional funerals,” he says.

However, Stone says some of his biggest customers are in small towns where traditional funerals remain the norm.

“Ours is a very quality product to honor the person that may have passed,” he says.

Floral fashions for weddings change, but flowers remain a big part of celebrations, Stone says.

“It’s still a thing that traditionally spreads such joy and creates such happiness for people,” he says. “There will always be a market for beautifully done flowers.”

Warren Carlson has worked at Mears for 51 years, and he agrees with Stone – societal changes have brought differences in people’s floral habits.

Valentine’s Day is the biggest floral holiday, Stone says, with Mother’s Day coming in second at about 70% of the February holiday.

On a Valentine’s Day tour of the building, Stone offers a peek into the chilly warehouse, which appears to be jam-packed with standing blossoms.

“You should have seen it two weeks ago,” he says, gesturing to where boxes of cut flowers were stacked alongside the visible blooms.

The aroma is lovely, but Stone prefers it during the winter holidays, when winter greens from Oregon, to be used in wreaths and swag, make the whole building smell like a pine forest.

As far as a favorite flower goes, Stone says you can’t beat a rose, which offers fragrance and diversity, including the variety known as the Freedom rose, the gold (red) standard for Valentine bouquets.


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