You may have noticed Tryforos and Pernice Florists on the way to getting items on Pondfield Road or even stopped in to get a bouquet, but what you might not know is that this dynamic and fun family of florists has had three generations in a business which has shaped all of their lives.
Mary, the matriarch, and her two children, Gary and Anna, own Tryforos and Pernice Florists.
This loving family knows how to work and play together, as I witnessed their jovial nature throughout my time with them.
Their attitude brings a warm and loving energy to their store and is even shared with their extended family – the people who work for them.
Gary describes this family business as a “boutique florist” because his business makes an effort to create unique custom designs, which will suit any specific location or occasion.
Gary Tryforos took time out of his busy workday to answer some questions about his business. Here is what he had to say:
Why did you choose this as your business?
It was a way to have a business and use your analytical side to run the business and a lot of us are creative. These days you are either in one or the other. So for me it was advantageous because you can do the number crunching on the business side to get an operation running and it is wonderful to have a business that can stay in the black and make money – that is not always the case these days. On the other hand you can exercise some creative license. It is kind of the best of both worlds.
How did you get started in your business?
I got started at a very young age. When you are in a family business, every weekend your parents think they own you. You grow up in it and it kind of becomes a part of who you are.
As soon as you get your drivers license you are a delivery driver. As soon as you have a little more education you can be on the telephones taking orders, selling or placing orders for supplies. It is just kind of a migratory path. So…it is natural for us.
What was your toughest challenge to overcome?
The toughest challenge in this business, just like in any other business, is just to survive. It is hugely costly. It is labor intensive. It is not like we are buying something for $1 and selling it for $2.
We buy our raw materials and it has to be manufactured into something. It has to be processed, even before that. This all takes a lot of labor. The cost of goods sold is high and then you have your variable and fixed cost – that is really tough to manage, because things are hugely expensive.
Equal to that is finding time to do what you love to do. If you are a great floral designer, that is one side of it. The great floral designer that decides “I am going to open my own business”, all of a sudden he or she is suddenly they are not a floral designer any more, they are a business manager.
And what they do is put on the back burner as they are trying to manage the business from day to day. A lot of businesses fail because of that reason. The challenge there is to do both.
What do you like most about your business?
Probably that you can see a finished product. A lot of times people work at things and they never see the end product. We do a big event and you can see a finished product and it gives you a level of satisfaction.
There is satisfaction there, but at the same time you are looking at how you could do better next time.
What do you dislike the most about your business?
We are open this time of year seven days a week. Our weeks start Monday morning. We are getting up at five in the morning racing down 28 streets of New York’s flower market. There are some things you have to deal with day in and day out that are kind of mundane.
What makes you different from your competition?
We got a good crew here. I think we all have differences in taste preferences, but we are able to synthesize it. From the disagreement comes a little bit of orchestration so we will have a little compromise, but then there is synergy also. We pool our ideas together and come up with something unique.
What suggestions would you have for someone who wants to go into business today?
It is true that location is key. You want to surround yourself with people that might even be able to do things better than you in certain areas. And it is expensive to hire talented people, but you want to surround yourself with good talented people. And you got to keep in mind it’s first and foremost a business. And you need to really take care of it.
What do you wish you had known before you started your business?
Me personally, I wish I were a better designer. Because when I got out of school I was in an insurance brokerage and it never occurred to me that I might end up in the family business.
When my father got sick I came into the business and I really didn’t know how to do any design work. So that would have been very helpful to me. There were people here that did it, but I wish I were a designer from the get-go.
What is the secret to your success?
One area that we had a leg up was that being here for three generations we have had suppliers that we dealt with for a generation or two. We can always appeal to them, “What is coming in from the West Coast that is really primo this week?” or “What Dutch product should we be buying?”
If there is something good sometimes we get a heads up. I think relationships are key. I think what makes us a little different is that, we want to make sure our suppliers are happy and the community that we work in is being supported as well. So it is more of a holistic approach to business.