Undoubtedly many local lovers turned to Toblers Flowers for help in making fanciful gestures today, the most romantic of holidays. Owners Chris and Brian Auckland say their business, which began in 1900, is thriving, but it is no longer the flower shop on the corner. New technology has changed the industry, and they have altered their business strategy to keep the Kansas City institution strong.
With a large fleet of delivery vehicles and designers working out of a consolidated location in the Historic 18th and Vine District, they are still one of the largest floral providers in a 25-mile delivery radius.
The Auckland family is the third to own Toblers in its 115-year history. Brian Auckland answered some questions for us.
Q. Let’s start with what people really want to know. If I just got a lovely cut-flower arrangement for Valentine’s Day, how do I keep it looking nice as long as possible?
A. The biggest thing is to change the water every day. Pull out the flowers and cut the stems of the flowers off about a quarter of an inch. The best tool for the job are sharp pruning shears. If you don’t have shears, cut the stems at an angle with the sharpest knife or scissors you have.
Q. Why do you cut off the bottoms of the stems?
A. Bacteria grow in the water and block off the stems, so the flowers cannot get the water and stay fresh. When you change the water, make that cut to open the stems back up to the water. Bacteria growth is the Number 1 thing that kills flowers. If you have flower food, the main purpose is to keep that bacteria from growing and keep that food healthy.
Q. Do you have other tips for keeping an arrangement fresh?
A. We advise to use cool water. Never use warm water, because the flowers don’t like warm water. It actually speeds up the blooming process, which will shorten the life of your flower. Flowers also do not like the sun after they have been cut. Keep your flower arrangements out of the sun. For your roses, expect them to last about a week. We try to make ours last as long as possible by having them flown in. We fly them in three times a week up to KCI directly from Ecuador and Colombia through Miami.
Q. Any tips on ordering flowers?
A. The best way to get the nicest arrangement for your money is to order directly through your local florist. Also, try ordering the designer’s choice. Our designers love doing those. Instead of a picture, it gives them artistic freedom. They always grab our freshest flowers. If you like a designer, you can try asking for that designer to do an arrangement for you again. We also keep records of what you’ve ordered in the past, which will help you make sure you get what you want.
Q. How has Toblers Flowers changed in recent years?
A. People may have seen the Toblers storefronts go away in recent years. The Internet changed the way people order flowers. Many people are ordering last minute on their cellphones and tablets rather than walking into the local shop. So we and many other florists in the industry have changed the way we do business.
We have consolidated to one storefront in the Historic 18th and Vine District that is in a location Toblers has used since the 1970s. We have taken the dollars we used to spend on real estate and are putting them back into the company. That means better flowers, more vans and better technology to serve our customers.
We are still quite large with 25 employees and 12 delivery vehicles, and we are still a family-owned company. We purchased Toblers in 2009 and are the third family to own the company since 1900.