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US: Congressman visits florist

Shop operations. Energy costs. Flower growing and shipping logistics. Care and handling. Environmental concerns. Floral design techniques. Deceptive advertising.

When she attended SAF’s Congressional Action Days last March, Sue Palazzo had no idea the event would lead to a personal visit from Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) this summer. The congressman and his outreach coordinator toured City Line Florist last week, meeting and greeting the staff and getting an inside look at the business.

These were just some of the issues Sue Palazzo talked about with Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) when the congressman stopped by City Line Florist in Trumbull, Connecticut, last week. The one-hour visit included a tour of the store, design room and greenhouse and gave the lawmaker and his outreach coordinator, Michael Dunn, an insider’s look at what it takes to run a successful floral industry business today.

“I was thrilled that he picked my shop with all the requests he gets [from constituents] for visits,” said Palazzo, who invited the congressman and his team to visit last March, while meeting in his Washington, D.C., office during SAF’s Congressional Action Days. “It was fun to tell my story and represent SAF and florists across the nation. I think the visit went really well.”

Palazzo used the visit as an opportunity to educate the congressman and his staff — and, most important, tell her story.

A fourth-generation florist, Palazzo began the tour of the 97-year-old business in the processing area, which allowed her to map out the industry supply chain and create an unexpected connection with Himes. “He wanted to know where most of our flowers originate,” she said. “[Turns out], we share a common interest, as he spent his childhood in Colombia” and was interested in learning more about environmental certifications in that country. (City Line is a certified Veriflora retailer.)

From there, Palazzo invited Himes and Dunn into the design room, where they watched a City Line designer create an arrangement, and then to the greenhouse, where Palazzo provided information on energy costs, and how expensive it can be to heat the area through the winter. Along the way, Palazzo explained the challenge of competing against supermarkets and unscrupulous order-gatherers that rely on deceptive advertising.

Before Himes and Dunn left, Palazzo also did what she does best: Sell flowers.

“I told him if he needs flowers, call my shop,” said Palazzo, who was a first-time attendee at last year’s CAD event and nervous about hosting such a high profile visitor last week until the government relations team at SAF walked her through how to make the most of it.

“I hope I picked up a new customer, but I know I formed a friendship and was informative about running a small business,” she said. “I hope when I come back next March [to Washington, D.C., for SAF’s Congressional Action Days 2016], he see's me personally and helps support the floral industry.”

Read about another recent lawmaker visit at a flower shop, also inspired by connections forged at CAD.

Interested in hosting a lawmaker or becoming more active in SAF’s efforts to educate lawmakers on industry businesses and advocate on their behalf? Contact SAF’s Shawn McBurney for info, smcburney@safnow.org

Source: Society of American Florists

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