Cheney Free Press -

By SHANNEN TALBOT
Staff Reporter 

Large floral distributor opens location in West Plains

 

November 15, 2018

Shannen Talbot

Washington Floral employee Charlie Zyph holds a bucket of amaranthus blooms in the newly-completed cooler.

There's old adage that tells us to bloom where we are planted, and a popular coastal floral distributer has chosen to plant a new location smack in the middle of the West Plains, hopeful that it will blossom into a spectacular success.

Washington Floral out of Tacoma opened up a new warehouse at 4310 S. Grove Road off of Geiger Boulevard a few months ago, and in recent weeks has finally put the finishing touches on its building and opened for brisk business.

When the Spokane-based wholesaler Roses & More went out of business in early May this year, Washington Floral owner Mark Berglund knew it would leave a major void in the Eastern Washington market.

"There's nothing around here that works in this capacity and variety - Spokane needs this," Washington Floral supply sales employee Christie Tweedy said. Like most of the staff at the new warehouse, Tweedy used to work for Roses & More before accepting her current position.

The West Plains location of Washington Floral will be known as the Mountain Branch, and is already serving customers all over Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming.

Berglund estimates that 95 percent of their business is wholesale customers like floral shops, malls, grocery stores, churches and schools, even giving a tour to some Spokane community college students. The Mountain Branch carries products from as far away as South America and Canada but also offers local products from California and Washington.

"We carry a lot of different products, and we can order just about anything," Mountain Branch general manager Steve Iseman said.

Part of the reason the company chose to settle in the West Plains was due to lack of available warehouse space in town, Iseman said. Many warehouses of the size they needed were already occupied by marijuana growers or dispensaries.

"If I could've found a great old historic brick building in Spokane that had the kind of space we needed, I might've gone for that, but the space we need for our operations is just more than that," Berglund said. "We need to be able to move semis through there, and the easy in and out from the airport will be a benefit, too."

The company is leasing just over 20,000 square feet of space which includes a plant department, several racks of accent décor and floral supplies and a newly-completed 4,500 square foot floral cooler packed with blooms of every color and variety.

About 20 people are employed at Washington Floral's West Plains site, with another 75 working at other locations throughout the state.

Employees say they've received lots of positive feedback from customers throughout the region, particularly ones in isolated areas with less access to specialty products.

"We have such an access to products from all over the world, and we hear from clients that they missed us," plant department manager Shannon Rene said. "We service a lot of small towns, and there was that huge void, especially for people in areas where they don't have a place to get supplies."

That assessment was confirmed by Tweedy, who called the gratitude from customers "overwhelming."

They say every rose has its thorn, but the only thorny part of the process was getting internet into its new building, Berglund said.

The process of getting the warehouse ready for business proved to be a challenging one. For the first few months of operations, employees had to go without a cooler, utilizing refrigerated freight trucks and making do with cellphone wi-fi hotspots as they waited for the internet to be installed. The building is also still awaiting a sign to help passersby identify it from the road.

"Getting internet turned out to be the hardest part," Berglund said. "Who would have figured?"

The Mountain Branch does not do floral designing or arranging, though the company may add a cut flower department to supply bouquets a mass market in the future.

Berglund calls the company's move to Spokane County "a great opportunity" and employees are looking forward to business kicking into high gear as the holiday season approaches. Thanksgiving and Christmas are followed by Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, making these next few months key to foretelling the Mountain Branch's long-term success.

Rene is already preparing to tackle the holiday rush in the plant department, as Christmas cacti and poinsettias explode in popularity.

"We're getting our first poinsettia shipment next week," she said. "I can't wait for our busy season to get started."

Shannen Talbot can be reached at shannen@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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