A Home Grown Florist
I defy you to walk into a McNamara florist shop and not come away feeling better. The combination of incredible smells, vibrant colors, and the presence of the miracle of living things is an instant mood enhancer. It is compounded by the fact that McNamara goes all out in its arrangements and decorations, especially during the holidays. The holiday decorating doesn’t just happen either: it takes months of preparation and literally weeks of work according to McNamara’s owner, Toomie Farris, who says they make 1,600 arrangements for Christmas alone.
Farris has done it all for McNamara ever since he went to work for its founder Bob McNamara in 1980. McNamara started the business in 1954. Farris bought it in 2007 after it had gone through several owners. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t the best as the economy dived in 2008. He says the impact was dramatic. “We expected to be growing in upper single digits to double digits like we had for the last ten or fifteen years. Instead, we started declining in double digits, which was typical of retail around that timeframe. So it was challenging but we managed to keep our head above water.” McNamara is now growing. They moved the original store in Broad Ripple to Glendale last year. They have opened a store in Geist, and the Avon store is just opening. They now have nine locations, including a six-acre greenhouse and garden center/flower shop complex in Fort Wayne, plus a 58,000 square foot warehouse in Fishers. There is an industry trend toward importing flowers and Farris says even though McNamara does import from six continents for seasonal varieties, they also grow many of their own flowers. “We’re pretty unique in the country in that we are vertically integrated; that we still are growing things ourselves. We really want to keep that homegrown local flavor as much as possible.”
Homegrown is what makes McNamara stand out. The company focuses on local relationships, and they are proud that most of McNamara store managers have been with them for a long time and have developed their own relationships in their own communities. The Center Grove McNamara, operates a little differently than the other stores. It has been around for ten years and is the biggest store in the group. Rosemari Herbert is the store manager who he calls phenomenal. Farris says it tends to operate more independently, and Center Grove is a great market. He points out that companies such as ProFlowers, 1-800-Flowers and FTD are national businesses that charge customers a service fee and then place the order with a local florist at a deep discount. As a result, the customer is being overcharged, and the local florist is being underpaid for the product. Farris is very involved in a national movement called “Florists for Change,” which is made up of florists who want to create a different scenario. Farris says they don’t want to go the way of the local grocery store and disappear, and he thinks the kind of business that is personal and relationship-based is not just about selling product. “People can go buy flowers anywhere, if they just want to drop them in a vase or something. However, if they want something to give their wife for their anniversary or they want to send it to the funeral home, they want it to be special. It means something. What we do is express emotions. It isn’t buying a widget, so there is creativity involved and there’s customization.”
Here are a few of the Christmas decorations available at the Center Grove McNamara on SR 135. Click the “i” for a few details on the photo. Story continues after photos.
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Farris says his company is also unusual in that it is expanding its retail stores when other small florist are being squeezed out. Part of the McNamara brand is customers coming into the stores to see the flowers and beautiful decor and come away with ideas. He says they are available online 24 hours a day, by phone, and they will even come out to your home or business and work with customers on site. He thinks people are still looking for experiences in retail, and that’s why he’s still going all in on brick and mortar stores. “When they walk into one of our stores we want them to feel good and feel welcome, get ideas and be able to look at all the pretty things and be inspired.”
After almost 60 years in business, Farris is still bullish on the future for McNamara. “We’ve gone through the evolution of building the brand and being a part of the community over all that time and it’s my time now to watch over it and continue the brand and values. We are proud that the founder Bob McNamara is still on our board of directors. We value that heritage and those core values. There’s a lot of tradition. Even though we change and update and we stay on top of both design trends and everything else, we still think that foundation is really important.”
You may wonder what a person who lives and breathes flowers likes when he picks out flowers for himself. Farris says he gets excited about seasonal flowers such as tulips in the spring and orchids in the summer, and he adds, “for the most part, I just enjoy the beauty of flowers. I will take whatever is seasonal and really pretty and just drop it in vases to have at home. And I try to keep flowers around all the time.”
So, here’s my suggestion for a natural pick-me-up. Drop by your neighborhood McNamara Florist and fill your senses with the smells and colors of nature. If you want to take some home with you, that’s fine, too, since you will be helping the local economy. cg
Ann Craig-Cinnamon is a 30 year Radio & TV Broadcast veteran. You may recall her as the host of popular radio morning shows in Indianapolis for many years. She and her husband, John are also business owners. Her lifelong love of world travel led them to start a travel franchise, CruiseOne, in Center Grove. Ann is a writer, travel speaker and author of an upcoming book about her time spent living in Iran.