With Mother’s Day coming up in the spring, most people have flowers on their mind. In honor of the frenzied floral holidays, your BBB sat down with Monty Lewis Jr., President of Appleway Florist and Greenhouse.
Appleway Florist and Greenhouse, located in Spokane Valley, has been running for 66 years and has been a BBB Accredited Business since 2015. In this interview, Lewis discusses Appleway’s history, BBB accreditation and how the business keeps up with changing times.
1. Tell me about the history of Appleway Florist and Greenhouse and how you fit into that.
So, my grandparents in 1952 came and purchased the business from someone who was retiring out of the industry. So it was kind of run down, and they built it up into what it became. Then, my aunt, dad, and mom came into the business and then eventually took over for my grandparents. Now my aunt has since then retired, and my dad has passed away, so my siblings and I are still with my mom continuing this.
2. How is Appleway different from other local florists and greenhouses?
Well, from other florists, I think we stand apart because we have the greenhouse section as well. So we house a wide variety of seasonal plants. Right now, we have tropical plants you wouldn’t necessarily be able to find everywhere. We’re going to start into bulbs here shortly once it’s about time for bulbs. Then we’ll go right into bedding season.
The other way we stand apart is we have employees my grandmother hired that are still working. So we have hundreds of years of experience if you combine us all together and we still get that personal touch that you can’t always get everywhere.
3. Appleway has been accredited since 2001, so about 17 years. From your perspective, why is it important that you continue that accreditation?
I think people see that and they recognize that and that means you’re reputable and that means you’re going to stand by your products. So, I think when people see that, that’s important. It just shows them there’s safety.
4. When did you start working here?
I have memories in Kindergarten helping my dad because we have some green on another property. That’s where my parents lived. I have five-year-old memories of putting flats together and greenhouses, but in high school I delivered flowers, and then I started full time in 1998. My dad was our head grower at the time, so I’d work side-by-side with him, and then an opening came up in our office, so I took over his office responsibilities, so he could focus. So, I just grew from there.
5. So you’ve seen it all from the seeds to the books. What have you liked most from those different perspectives?
Our business is very seasonal, so it’s different all the time. So, we’re going to be full of roses here very shortly for Valentine’s. Then right after that, we transition, and I still work out in the greenhouse. We’re a family business. We do all the jobs. So I like that there’s variety. We don’t always get the holidays off, but there’s always variety, and I think that helps to not feel a burn out. It’s the same cycle, but it’s different from month to month or sometimes even day to day.
6. What changes have you seen in your time here, from a five-year-old to where you are now?
I would say the biggest thing I’ve noticed is the floral industry has gone online. It’s really hard for small businesses to compete with large companies for that internet dollar. So that’s been a challenge for us, trying to sell our creativity online when people are looking up a picture. When we’re left with being able to do something creative, where you give us a color and just a small conversation about what they might like, the things that we can come up with tend to be more beautiful than the picture that you can cookie cutter buy on our website.
7. Floral arrangements and designs change all the time. Where do you get your inspiration for new trends?
We look through some magazines and see what they predict will be the new hot color or new trendy design. We try and brainstorm. Right now, I have some beautiful orchids in. So, since I was able to get these orchids at a lower price than I would normally be able to, I have a lot of them. So, I’m like, ‘okay what can we do with this?’ and we’ll brainstorm together some unique ideas on how to use these beautiful, long-lasting flowers. Some of the ladies have been here for 30 years, right out of high school, or right out of their training if they went to some sort of floral programs. They’re still trendy. They go and find these awesome ideas.
8. What do you find most difficult?
Well, with Valentine’s Day coming up, I have probably six employees today. I’m going to quadruple that. So sometimes it’s hard to find people that want to work for a few days with the experience needed and working at full speed. We have these very high peaks with Mother’s Day, and there’s a couple of other holidays that go up too. So being able to find people. We go from six to 10 people in this building to, you know, 40 or 50 and just for a few days.
9. Is there anything else about Appleway that makes you proud or something you would share with other business owners?
Something that we’ve continued as a tradition is in the spring we’ll have our petunia trees. That’s something my grandfather created a long, long time ago. Actually, during the World’s Fair in Seattle, he did a mini version in flowers and the petunia tree was one of the traditions that stayed from that. I’m proud of that because it’s something that we’ve done for so many years. A lot of people know us for that. I think it’s important that you have something for customers to have that visual of who you are and what you try to accomplish, that signature item.
To learn more about Appleway Florist and Greenhouse, visit www.applewayflorist.com.