Special to the Asbury Park Press TOMS RIVER – Though Ken Malagiere grew up “under the counter” of Narcissus Florals — the florist shop his father Tom launched in Toms River in 1989 when his son was in grade school — taking over the family business after college wasn’t a foregone conclusion.

“Though I was a painter and had an interest as an artist, pursuing a career in the floral industry wasn’t necessarily in the plan,” said Malagiere, 37, a lifelong Toms River resident.

While he took a number of fine arts courses at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s campuses in Madison and Teaneck as well as in Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom, he graduated with a degree in political science and international studies and intended to go to law school.

“Before that, however, I wanted to take a year off to get real-life experience in a business that I knew I could manage and, at the same time, my father was anxious to pass the torch on to me,” he recalled.

The opportunity proved to be very appealing and Malagiere, then 21, decided against law school after all and instead took over as the second-generation owner of Narcissus Florals in 2005.

“But while I enjoyed the artistry of it and the challenge of running a small business, I wanted to grow our venture and expand into the wedding and event market,” he said of his desire to connect more with customers and build a deep bench of artists and vendors in their network.

To better position for these goals, “I moved our 1,000-square-foot shop on Fisher Boulevard to a space double the size in nearby Seacourt Pavilion in May 2005,” Malagiere said.

He soon followed this up with the creation of a design center three miles away in Toms River. “That’s where the magic happens,” Malagiere said of the 3,000 square-foot space, which provides his design team with cold storage for flowers and space to create larger arrangements and pieces.

He further expanded his footprint by purchasing Mueller’s Historic Florist shop in Spring Lake Heights in August 2019 (keeping the Mueller’s name, which goes back 85 years.) Out-of-the-box design

Fifteen years after taking over, “we provide floral artistry to 300 weddings and special events annually — including bar/bat mitzvahs, sweet 16 celebrations and larger parties as well as bereavement gatherings — and are recommended as an approved vendor by 36 top-notch venues up and down the Jersey Shore, from Jersey City to Cape May and west to Pennsylvania,” Malagiere said.

“Given the involved logistics associated with such a heavy volume of events, our team is very hands-on and in daily communication with our brides and customers to ensure that all of the details are covered,” he said.

While Malagiere and his team can get most any type of flower at any time of year (except certain highly-seasonal varietals), “most of our wedding varieties are imported from Europe, especially Holland, based on the quality we demand,” he said.

“Our displays are known for their vibrancy, color combinations and textures and customers tell […]