"Flower trucks are on a roll"

Should you take your fresh flower show on the road?

Oasis asked the owners of three trucks—a florist at a family garden center, a big city entrepreneur and a rural couple with a baby and toddler—for their experiences and insights.

Like food trucks, flower trucks draw crowds at festivals, parties, weddings, shopping center and community events, delivering fresh flower hands-on experiences.

With a boost from social media, these mobile merchants reach flower shoppers who enjoy a fresh experience as much as purchasing a product. By choosing vintage vehicles, some also add photo-worthy cachet to their brand.

A family affair: Graf’s Flower Truck
“With a flower truck we can reach people where they are,” explains Karlie Graf of Graf’s Flower Truck in Akron, Ohio. “At fleas, a craft show or local event shoppers are more likely to stop by a truck than visit a store.”

For Karlie, flowers are a family affair dating back to 1910 and her great-grandfather’s farm. 100 descendants later, Karlie works alongside her dad, aunt and uncle at the garden center.

In July, 2018, they added a flower truck named Gladys.

The Ohio truck season is from mid-June through October. High tunnel greenhouses help extend the growing season. “Our goal is to extend the selling season to March or April by 2020,” Karlie explains.

Selling from a flower bar
“Working from a flower truck is the same as a shop, but in a smaller space,” says Karlie.

Flowers are picked and processed the day before an event. Eight to ten buckets of flower stems are selected for the flower bar along with ten buckets of pre-made flower bundles.

“Our most popular item is lisianthus, but we’re also known for our dahlias, zinnias and sunflowers.” Bouquets account for 90 percent of sales. A flower food packet is given with each bouquet.

“We grow a lot of our own woodies like winterberry, curly willow and red twig dogwood, that are popular, too,” says Karlie. Plants, succulents and house plants sell well from the truck and workshops at the store.

Hands-on classes teach the use of floral foam, wreaths, containers, tapes and adhesives and tools.

“We share the Graf story in our store, online and with workshop attendees,” says Karlie. “We print posters, T-shirts and offer a weekly handout to promote our store and truck events.”

JJ’s Flower Truck
Atlanta resident Sarah Rice started looking for a new hobby or side gig in July, 2018. “I wanted to do something I would enjoy and flowers sounded fun.”

She wasn’t ready to open a brick and mortar flower shop. She began her research, took floral classes, looked into permits and started searching for a truck.

In August, she located a 1968 VW Transporter in Beverly Hills, California. She had it inspected by a local mechanic and transported to Georgia. Her dad tagged the 51-year-old vehicle “Bev”.

Sarah named her budding business JJ’s after her sidekick and favorite pup, Jaxon Jones.

Bev arrived with a metal structure and canvas canopy. After wooden shelving and a logo were added, the 26-bucket flower truck went on the road in September.

Build-your-own-bouquet business model
About 90 percent of the business involves customers building their own bouquets, with Sarah giving design tips as needed. Flowers are priced per stem.

She often designs bouquets for customers, especially men. Pre-made bouquets are also available.

About half of JJ’s events are privately hosted; the rest are public events. Some are by invitation, others by permit.

Sarah finds that customers outside the city prefer traditional flowers like roses and sunflowers. Inside the city a wildflower look is more popular. She adjusts her selection and price to the location and type of event.

“I haven’t paid for any marketing,” says Sarah. “The business markets itself. People love to take photos and share them on social media.”

Read more at Floriology (Sharon McGukin)

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