From a traditional flower shop to an event design company to a supermarket floral department.
Kelly Cuadra is the floral manager at New Seasons Market’s Williams store in Portland, Ore. This is the story of her floral journey.
I worked at a bed-and-breakfast in Sonoma, Calif., and became the tender of the garden, which was full of Zinnia and Dahlia. After graduating from design school in visual communications, I worked at a flower shop in San Francisco and then became a regional head of floral design at Brown Paper Design in Los Angeles. When I became pregnant with my second child and needed something calmer, I opened my own floral company. Later, we moved to Portland, Ore., where my husband became sick. I needed structured work with benefits and, miraculously, I landed this floral manager job at New Seasons Market.
I’ve been here three years, and I feel like I’ve come home. This is a unique and beautiful environment. Flowers are grounding and stress reducing. The work is hard, intense and laborious but so rewarding. I’ve wrapped my arms around my community and my city, and they have returned the love.
New Season’s merchandisers continuously find an extensive array of stunning floral products from all kinds of growers. I’m able to select from a menu, knowing what will work for my particular store and demographic. Every store is different [New Seasons operates 20 stores, mostly in Oregon but also in Washington and Northern California], and I’m in tune with my customer community. Sometimes I don’t know what a new item will look like until it arrives; the risk is the experiment versus the sure bet.
All floral work is hard, but in grocery-store floral, there are huge amounts of everything. My amazing team – Ari Mwachofi, design lead, and
Rachel Ruleaux, floral clerk – and I get exhaustive workouts just unloading, moving and displaying the product – before we ever get to the
design and sales.
I have department, store and corporate guidelines and expectations for performance and revenue. Every week, I look at labor costs, projections, trends and operations. I’m responsible for putting all of these factors into play. I buy a lot of product, and it has to be accounted for. I can take risks, but they have to be well thought out.
It’s fun to receive something new and think how I might make this dorky thing work and sell the hell out of it. I like educating customers about our amazing products. I’m invested in being knowledgeable about the products we sell and how they perform. And I share what I learn with our merchandisers to help future buying.
Customers in the North Williams neighborhood are diverse and cultured, and they come from various economic backgrounds. We have people who want one cool stem and those who buy for a photo shoot or a big holiday party.
We have moms who come in for trendy arrangements and customers who order weekly floral arrangements. Our floral department is at the front of the store, where it’s easy to welcome people and learn what they need.
Our merchandisers buy wonderfully interesting product, but it’s how we display it that results in great sales and happy customers. Rachel creates great displays; I like to elevate our products to something amazing. Everything I do is centered on how we can execute in the best possible way. We have to know what’s trending so we can capture our customers’ discerning eyes. Plants are huge, and my plant guy is always sharing the next cool thing.
I am hyper aware that all success sits with my team, and I am so thankful for them. I am so inspired to be playing with flowers and thankful for having the freedom to create. This job and New Seasons swooped in and took my heart.