The flower markets in New York City are located on W 28<sup>th</sup> Street between 6<sup>th</sup> and 7<sup>th</sup> Avenue. If you have never been, I highly recommend you take a Saturday morning to go have a look. With all the different kinds of flowers, plants and characters in the stores, you will definitely have a memorable experience.
In an attempt to offer some perspective for anyone interested in working as a florist, I will describe my first experience in the floral industry, walking into the wholesale markets on W 28<sup>th</sup> St at 6AM.
Envision walking onto the trading floor of a commodities market, without any previous knowledge of what a commodity is. Upon looking it up in the dictionary, you realize that it is an intricate concept that cannot be understood in a few minutes. There are such things as hard commodities and soft commodities and each category represents thousands of products! Maybe you already own some stock in your investment portfolio, but you soon realize that stocks and commodities are quite different, and that changes in price are due to completely different factors. The trading floor must be full of people on the phone, shouting to get pricing, make trades, or just intimidate the person next to them. Without extensive previous research about commodities and how to trade them, most people would run for the door. This indeed was my first desire upon entering Associated Cut Flower Co, Inc. on W 28<sup>th</sup> Street.
Upon entering the market, I look around to find thirty florists browsing the shelves, seeking the finest bunches of flowers Associated has to offer. Pulling one bunch off the shelf, inspecting its blooms, placing it under their arm and exclaiming “What a gorgeous hue of purple!” or “How old are these?” before placing them back on the shelf. Meanwhile, the managers and employees of the markets are shouting above the chatter and the drone from all the air compressors – “Eight hundred garden roses, Holland! One bundle freesia! Two hundred peonies! Twenty green buttons! Eight amaranth! Four bupleurum!...”
“Mohammed, move your ass!” shouts the floor manager as a lady who looks rather stressed is hovering behind him, arms crossed and hair disheveled. “Madame Smith has a wedding at 2pm, where did you put the Vendelas? ... Well, what the hell are you waiting for? Go get them!”
After witnessing all this I realize I am just standing in the way of everyone so I start to look for the Green Trick I came for (I Googled it before arriving). “Get OUT!” shouts the owner to some homeless lady in tattered clothing and browning white sneakers. “You don't get any flowers today – GET OUT!” As I turn my head to look, I notice the old lady has thrown her fists up, prepared to fight the owner over two bunches of white lilies. She does not saying anything – just waits for him to make a move. He approaches her and reaches for her hat, pulling it over her eyes and then giving her a warm and affectionate hug! He leaves her standing alone by the back of the shop and tells her to wait quietly, then she crosses her arms and pouts. Completely baffled by what just happened, I return to looking for my Green Trick.
Everyone is moving so fast, how do you get help in here? “Where is your Green Trick?” I ask a passing employee, knowing I am not acting confident or speaking loud enough. The man I ask ignores me, hurries by and goes into the refrigerated area. I wander some more, looking at all the flowers I have never seen before. ‘They should really have labels for these flowers’ I say to myself. Then I realize that no one else is having the same problem of finding what came for. I look up once more and lock eyes with a younger man. He is one of the new sales representatives, who comes over and asks if I need any help, and then proceeds to show me where they keep their Green Trick. In the end, I bought only one bunch and left as quickly as possible. It was a small sale, but he made sure I had everything I needed and turned me into a loyal customer.
Advice for those feeling completely lost in the markets: seek out one of the employees and let them know you need help. If you do not ask for help, you will not receive any – not unless it is a very slow day. Once you ask for help, continue to make eye contact with the person you spoke with and they will either help you themselves or send someone to find your flowers and create your invoice. Generally, you will develop a relationship with the first person that comes to your rescue; you will deal with them exclusively for future purchases.
Flower wholesale markets in smaller cities and towns will also be a different experience than New York City, where there is much more demand and movement. Being certain that you can rely on one person to get you in and out of the market in a timely manner is a huge weight off your shoulders. This is especially true when you wake up late and have a very important order to deliver before 8AM.
Some wholesale florists require that you own a florist, or a business that can resell the flowers you are purchasing. The smart ones will agree to sell you as many bunches as you want as long as you pay sales tax.
Once you have gotten your flowers, you will also need tools and containers. You can find any of these at Florist Supply Stores – there are three on West 28<sup>th</sup> Street that I know of, but a quick Google search will reveal all the supply stores in your area.
Share your first experience in a wholesale flower market with us and we will post it on the Floral Insight blog. Send your story to email@example.com, looking forward to it!