Diablo Views: Say it with flowers | January 18, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Column - January 18, 2008

Diablo Views: Say it with flowers

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Such lovely blossoms, even in January. I stopped in at Alamo Flower Co. the other day and was delighted by so many things. The white fluffy stuffed bears waiting to be delivered with bouquets for Valentine's Day and heart-decorated vases. The tinkling fountain and the healthy green plants. The ceiling lights of blue sky and white clouds.

I wanted to talk to owner Connie Peterson because I'd heard the shop has been around for 30 years and I had two questions: How many blooms can possibly be purchased in little ol' Alamo? And how does a mom-and-pop shop compete against the convenient, inexpensive flowers at Costco and Trader Joe's? After talking to Connie, it all makes sense.

Connie attributes their success to their involvement in the community, supporting charities and the schools, and being active in the Alamo Merchant Professional Association and Rotary. AMPA sponsors the tree lighting in the little park, which is about 20 feet from the flower shop so it is an integral part in more ways than one. Alamo Rotary does the Music and Wine Festival in the fall in the Alamo Plaza parking lot to benefit the schools. Even while we visited, an Alamo resident who was known to me for her many activities came in to have flowers sent to an ailing friend. Of course, she would go to Connie's. It all became clear. It's a wonderful cycle because, as Connie noted, "We support the community, giving back to them for supporting us."

Connie said Valentine's Day is the single biggest day she has, and she hires extra help to take orders, put together arrangements and to deliver them. Many men order flowers ahead of time and pick them up on their way home, she said, and she carries Sweet Shop USA chocolates to include with the flowers. I accepted a few chocolates, contrary to our ethics policy, and can personally vouch for them. Connie surprised me with the news that Thanksgiving and Christmas are also huge around here as people order flowers for their own homes. This year she filled a lot of orders for a large arrangement in the entryway with a coordinating centerpiece in the dining room.

Then there are flowers for Mother's Day, get well, birthdays, anniversaries, thank yous, new babies, weddings, funerals and Easter. And don't forget "just because" flowers; roses are special anytime. Alamo Flower Co. also does corporate gifts and flowers for parties in homes or at Round Hill Country Club, where it provides fresh flowers in the dining room twice a week. Then there are the proms for San Ramon Valley and Monte Vista high schools, with mostly wrist corsages the boys buy for the girls and the boutonnieres the girls buy for the boys.

"The kids are delightful," said Connie. "They're so polite. The juniors come back as seniors and sometimes come back later if their girlfriend is still in high school."

Connie said when she was growing up in Minnesota, her mother always had a yard full of beautiful flowers in the summertime plus she grew her own vegetables. "In the winter, she tried to have blooming houseplants," Connie recalled. "She always wanted something blooming in the house." When she and Jim were married, in 1958, the flowers - white daisies - were provided by her mother and her garden club. They moved here in 1978 when Jim, who was in broadcasting, took a job with the Oakland A's.

Alamo Flower Co. was started in 1978 but Connie became involved 20 years ago, she said. Before that, she was an accountant and managed an office at a car dealership, and was raising two daughters. "I actually thought this would be easier," she said with a laugh. "More flexible." The flower shop moved from the Courtyard in Alamo to its present location for more room when the small center opened nine years ago.

Connie buys their flowers from the San Francisco Flower Market, choosing what she wants from its list. She noted the flower business is easier in the local climate, rather than back east where the flowers have to be shipped in and then must be protected with thick paper as they are delivered. She also said a Web site is mandatory (www.myfsn.com/alamoflowerco).

I peeked into the backroom, too. Stunning gerbera daisies were in large vases awaiting their future in bouquets. Connie explained these aren't the ones grown in gardens - florists use a variety with thicker stems for bouquets, plus they stay fresh longer. She has to be careful to not overstock so she can keep everything fresh without discarding much inventory.

"No one wants to get flowers that are going to be dead the next day," she said.

With the shop open six days a week throughout the year, perhaps the flower business is not as easy as Connie had thought. But she's sure found a perfect way to be part of the Alamo community.

-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.