BJ’s Petal Pushers, a longtime Napa florist, is using its July move to 2762 Old Sonoma Road as a way to introduce the store to customers.
“Our new location in the Carneros Center has a lot of foot traffic and great neighbors. It’s in an area where we leave the door open and have flowers for sale outside. People are always welcome to pop in and see our arrangements,” said manager Henock Tesfaw.
BJ’s Petal Pushers, which Tesfaw’s family bought two years ago through Selam Holdings, LLC, offers floral delivery, fresh flowers for sale in-store, and arrangements for companies, holidays, funerals, weddings, graduations, birthdays, and more.
Tesfaw said customers can get a taste of what the shop offers through its weekly delivery service. Customers can preset their spending limit, starting at $50, and preferences.
“We create floral designs that match the tone and services of an office. We never put the same order to the same customer. We always use what is in season and what the customer likes,” said Tesfaw.
Tesfaw said if a customer sees a flower arrangement they like, he often makes a similar arrangement, with a twist. This ensures the second customer gets a unique order.
“Instead of white hydrangeas and green carnations, we can make it green hydrangeas and white carnations,” said Tesfaw. He will also add greenery, like curly willow and silver dollar eucalyptus.
Customers can choose flowers that are aroma-free and leave out flowers to which they are allergic.
Tesfaw said delivery service customers include wineries, professional offices and couples.
The flowers that are popular in late summer are sunflowers, lilies, cabbage roses, Gerber daisies, and dahlias, all blooms with “bright reds, oranges, and yellows,” said Tesfaw.
Returning customers will be happy to know that Jaci Kollar, the former owner, remains on staff.
Kollar, who trained Tesfaw for several months when he joined the staff, usually works on Mondays.
“I owned BJ’s Petal Pushers for 29 years. The transition has been very smooth. The customers are happy. We still purchase from the same vendors,” said Kollar.
For decades, BJ’s Petal Pushers has bought its flowers wholesale from Neve Brothers, a Petaluma grower, and a Santa Rosa grower.
The shop also offers living plant baskets, created from fresh greenery and containing fresh-cut flowers, fruit baskets, gourmet food baskets with cheese, crackers, and jams, balloons and succulent gardens in wooden boxes.
Tesfaw said one of his key tasks is creating the “wine country look” for greenery and floral arrangements.
“Customers often come in with pictures. We add to that. It’s a good idea to work with our staff. You get more flowers when it’s the florist’s choice,” said Tesfaw.
Kollar said she always tells herself “not to go right for the grape leaves.”
“Putting in the big grape leaves that you get in the fall, when they start to turn red, works sometimes,” said Kollar.
Kollar said when creating wine-related arrangements, she may look into how long the customer has lived in Napa Valley.
“Someone who’s grown up here may have a different spin on wine country than someone who recently moved here. The wildflower look can be very pleasing,” said Kollar.
Tesfaw said a florist is often helpful in filling out an arrangement. Customers may ask for several standout flowers, like tulips. The arrangement can still look sparse. A florist will add more items, from ferns to twigs to filler flowers, so the bouquet looks full.
Tesfaw recommends that customers order in-season flowers. It is also a good idea to become familiar with the flowers that bruise easily, like peonies.
“You want the best flowers. They should stay fresh for a while,” said Tesfaw.
This year, items that have remained consistently top sellers include living orchid plants, two-toned roses, living plant baskets, orange roses and lilies with colors other than white.
Tesfaw said learning how to run the business required him to study inventory control. He also became skilled at estimating how many of each flower to buy and listening to customers.
“Everyone’s idea of what is pretty is different. When a customer says they want a “beautiful arrangement,” that may include reds, pinks, and purples. It’s important to get them to share what they like. It also helps to know what the people receiving the flowers like,” said Tesfaw.
Tesfaw said another key part of running the flower shop is keeping his team members happy.
“If the team members aren’t in a good mood, the flowers get sad too. The design won’t pop off. If I pick up the phone and I smile, you can feel that energy,” said Tesfaw.
BJ’s Petal Pushers has a permanent team of four employees, with a temporary staff of up to 15 for holidays.
“The busiest time is Mother’s Day, because everybody has a mom. That’s a four- or five-day event. Valentine’s Day is the single busiest day. I usually hire 11 to 13 people just for deliveries. Thanksgiving is pretty big too,” said Tesfaw.
Tesfaw said BJ’s Petal Pushers can create unusual arrangements for Halloween.
“We make all kinds of floral arrangements that are spooky, with decorations like fake spider webs and spiders,” said Tesfaw.
Training a new employee is a multi-week process.
“First, we let a prospective team member shadow our current team members. We teach them how we like the flowers cut and the buckets cleaned. We teach them how to work with greenery, including ferns, tips, lemon leaf, and cedar. After they work several shifts, we have them create a few arrangements of their own,” said Tesfaw.
Kollar, an experienced flower arranger, said she likes watching the pastels of spring flowers give way to the vivid colors of summer.
“When you work with flowers, you never miss a season. The colors are right here with you,” said Kollar.
Kollar said her tips for keeping flowers fresh include changing the water every other day and keeping the ends cut. Tesfaw recommends keeping flowers in air-conditioned areas and placing vases on cool surfaces.
Tesfaw also said someone who is giving flowers should choose in-person delivery.
“Even the customers who walk in and order arrangements would rather have someone bring them flowers. People love to receive flowers. It makes them smile,” said Tesfaw.
To learn more, call 707-257-3130, or visit bjspetalpushers.com/