Scolari’s Food & Drug grows its floral operation thanks to a full range of services.by Cynthia L. McGowan
Customer service is an important value at Scolari’s Food & Drug Company, a family-owned 18-store chain based in Sparks, Nev. The floral operation embodies that value with full-service departments, talented designers and the ability to handle asll needs from custom designs to weddings.
“The culture of the store is full-service commitment to customers,” confirms Paul Dziedzic, director of produce and floral. “Pleasing and leaving customers satisfied—it’s all based on service and quality.”
Toward that goal, most stores have delis with meal options for customers to grab and go; pharmacies; and full-service meat, seafood and bakery departments. The company also gives back to the community through its “Friendship Fund,” which has contributed more than $4.5 million to local nonprofit organizations.
The example for customer relations is set at the top by the owners, brothers Joey and Jerry Scolari, Mr. Dziedzic reports. “They’re always in the stores, seeing customers, shaking hands and extending themselves,” he remarks.
doing everything in floral
Twelve Scolari’s stores have full-service departments, “meaning they do everything in floral, including delivery, designing and you name it,” Mr. Dziedzic explains. The other six are in areas that won’t support full service, but they have cash-and-carry offerings. “They do extremely well with floral, too,” he emphasizes, “but we just have a different approach.”
The full-service departments average 600 to 1,000 square feet in size and attract customers’ attention with colorful flowers and plants attractively displayed on wood and metal shelving and in floral coolers. Fresh products take center stage, with the departments offering complementary items including balloons, greeting cards and vases.
Customers often ask to have designs made while they shop, sometimes bringing in their own containers for the designers to use, Mr. Dziedzic says. “We get some pretty interesting things coming in,” he remarks—sometimes even cowboy boots.
The designers also receive a substantial number of orders for flowers for people participating in local events such as rib cook-offs, balloon races and so on, Mr. Dziedzic shares. “Especially when we get into the nicer weather times of the year, there’s a huge event up here almost every weekend,” he explains. “You’d be surprised how many people take advantage of bringing flowers to that event for somebody involved.”
In addition to that daily business, the company handles sympathy work, events and weddings. In 2004, Scolari’s entered the wedding business, and it has been a profitable and growing area since. (Read more in “A Growing Business in Weddings,” Page 24.)
Mr. Dziedzic has developed an efficient system to ensure the stores have enough labor to meet customers’ floral needs. Each department has one full-time florist. In addition, the company has a pool of about eight floral “floaters” who are available to go wherever and whenever they are needed. “They help cover days off, vacations or major events,” Mr. Dziedzic elaborates.
The company has discovered that Sundays are a slow day in the floral departments, so just one department stays open on Sunday, serving as a centralized shop and handling orders from Scolari’s two wire services, Teleflora and 1-800-Flowers.com. If the load gets heavy on a Sunday, Mr. Dziedzic can send a floater to help.
He also hires temporary workers from an employment service during busy holidays including Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. The temporary employees have a background in floral, and Mr. Dziedzic often is able to hire the same ones year after year. In some cases, he has hired them permanently after being able to see their quality of work on the job. “It works really well,” he remarks. “It’s been a good thing for us.”
keys to success
SERVICE The florists at Scolari’s Food & Drug Company offer a full range of floral services from custom designs to weddings.
a growing business in weddings
Since Scolari’s Food & Drug Company started handling weddings in 2004, it has generated about $500,000 in nuptial business, reports Paul Dziedzic, director of produce and floral. “It seems to build each year,” he says.
The company’s 12 full-service floral departments handle all sizes of weddings, from small affairs, for which the couples pick up their wedding flowers, to complete set-up. “We do just about anything we get asked to do,” Mr. Dziedzic shares.
Scolari’s publicizes its nuptial business at a large wedding fair every year in Reno, Nev., exhibiting with the company’s catering and bakery departments. Mr. Dziedzic says the fair offers two benefits: It lets brides see what Scolari’s can do, and the company receives a list of all attendees, so the florists can contact them for business later.
The florists book consultations in advance and conduct them right in the floral departments. They usually take about two hours, and the florists show the brides work they have done as well as books of inspiration. The florists often give a quote on the spot and ask for about a 5 percent down payment to reserve the date. Closer to the date, the brides pay 50 percent, and the rest is paid at the end of the process.
Scolari’s often books destination weddings in Lake Tahoe, Calif., about an hour from the Sparks/Reno area. Those kinds of weddings require more phone communication, but they are a growing area of business. Scolari’s website, www.scolaristores.com, includes information about its wedding work and is an important vehicle for drawing out-of-town brides, Mr. Dziedzic remarks.
The company has one full-time florist in each department, so to handle wedding work, employees from a pool of floaters often are called in to help (learn more about the floating pool on Page 25). Mr. Dziedzic says he looks at the calendar several months in advance to see what weekends might be big ones for wedding work so he can forecast labor needs.The biggest key to successful wedding work, Mr. Dziedzic shares, is hiring the right people. The best florists for weddings are the ones who can design and work well with brides, he points out. “Advertising’s huge, the fairs are huge,” he reminds, “but you have to have the right people to start the word-of-mouth going. That’s where we get most of our business—just people that like what we do.”
Reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan at email@example.com
or (800) 355-8086.