By Lexi Fontaine, Marketing Intern
Last week I visited Stephen Flynn in his full service floral shop and garden center, Nunan’s Florist and Greenhouses, located in Georgetown, MA. Below is the interview for the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce’s #portpeople campaign which is a weekly profile of members of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry!
Lexi: Nunan’s has a long line of family tradition. What is the importance to you for keeping it this way?
Stephen: It develops a legacy. We do have family members working here, but we treat all the employees as if they were family. Ask any employee who is not a family member and they will tell you that. Developing a nice place to work makes people have more pride in what they do, especially in a family run business. I think it reflects in the quality of the plants we sell, as well as the way we treat the customers.
Lexi: Nunan’s is more than just a greenhouse. You offer services from traditional floral arrangements, to plant rentals, landscaping and even interior ‘plantscaping’. How does Nunan’s juggle these facets?
Stephen: It’s not easy! I have great managers; one who runs the landscaping business who checks in with me once or twice a day; one manager for the floral department, and then I have an interior plant care division that has a very good manager. She works with three others who help with interior plant care. I check in with her about once or twice a week. I manage the rentals and the wholesale business. We wholesale to other garden centers and floral shops, and my son and Linda run the retail portion of the business. We just took over Knapp’s Greenhouse in West Newbury, and my 23 year-old grandson will be the manager there. There is a lot going on right now. We are in the middle of setting up a Café called Café Sarina, moving the ice cream stand to inside the Café, and hiring a manager from a restaurant in Boston to run it. The only way to keep track of everything is through good managers.
Lexi: Nunan’s also offers mini golf. Where did the idea for adding mini golf come from?
Stephen: My son Stephen is the one who came up with the idea to have what they call “agri-tourism” (agricultural tourism). We call what we built, “Garden Golf.” All the shrubbery and flowers are labeled, so when you’re playing mini golf you can read them, and on the back of your score card there’s a question, ‘what were your favorite plants while you were golfing? You can purchase your favorites when you are done. I went to a convention a couple years ago where they said that all the top garden centers throughout the world had met in England, and they came up with multiple ideas to help garden centers do more business to combat the big chains like Home Depot and Lowe’s. They were saying things like, “put up cafes, mini golf, sell ice cream,” etc. I was nudging my wife saying, “We’re already doing this!”
Lexi: What were the motivating factors behind Kallie’s Kones and Café Sarina?
Stephen: I have 8 grandchildren and Kallie is my third. She was diagnosed with cancer, so when we were building the ice cream stand we thought we would call it Kallie’s Kones. My other granddaughter, Sarina, was born with Down syndrome, so we thought to name the Café after her.
Lexi: Nunan’s donates a lot of its time and services to beautifying surrounding communities. What is the importance of giving back?
Stephen: I was told many years ago that the more you give back the more you get, and it really holds true. We don’t treat this as a Georgetown business; we treat it as a regional business. Sometimes I have to laugh, because I’m not just dealing with one high school football team but I’m dealing with multiple teams, and I love it. We try to give back to all the communities within a certain radius. We try to help out by sponsoring as many teams as we can. If someone is having a fundraiser, Anna Jaques Hospital for example, I will donate plants to decorate the hall and put up a sign, “Flowers donated by Nunan’s.” You would be surprised by how many people will come in to Nunan’s after seeing that and purchase plants. It really does help not only our business, but the community as well.
Lexi: What is the most unique and/or rare plant species that you have?
Stephen: We have a tall trunk that comes from an island in Indonesia, and it is called the “Corpse Plant.” It only flowers once every ten years and has a huge blossom, but it smells like a dead body! The last time it flowered we had the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald newspapers here taking pictures of it. It only blooms for about two to three days, and then it is done. It is really rare and unique.
Lexi: What are you looking forward to most in this upcoming season?
Stephen: We are looking forward to opening up the new building at the end of April which will include Café Sarina and Kallie’s Kones. We always look forward to this time of year, and having something new makes it even more exciting.
Lexi: For you, what is the best part of owning Nunan’s?
Stephen: For me, it is seeing something grow and be successful. At 63 years old, I get up in the morning and I can’t wait to go to work. I wish everyone had that. I cannot tell you how many people say, “I hate my job!” I love coming to work. In the busy season I’m here seven days per week for 12 or 14 hours per day, but I love it. It is what I’ve grown up with and enjoy. When things slow down, then I will take time off. To be able to work with my sons and grandsons is an inspiration for me too. If I didn’t have them, I might think about slowing down, but I keep going.
To learn more about Nunan’s Florist and Greenhouses and the services they offer, visit https://nunans.com/.
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38R Merrimac Street, Newburyport MA 01950