One cannot help but be enveloped by the sweet, fresh smell of flowers upon entering Scotts Flowers. When I commented on the intoxicating scent, Brooke Roman, a sales associate and design consultant, smiled and said, “I’m noseblind to it!” I marveled at the floral masterpieces in the front room, particularly a beautiful purple box overflowing with delicate flowers. I learned that Brooke, herself, had come up with the idea to start creating flower boxes, a concept that she told me is used in Europe, but rarely in the United States.
Upstairs in the office space, Olivia, Tom and I sat down with Rob and Chris, two of the three Palliser brothers. Their father, Robert Palliser, Sr., started the business in Queens before moving to Manhattan in 1982. Opening a flower shop was all he could think to do after getting home from the war: He had never gone to college, but throughout his childhood he spent quite a bit of time in his uncle’s florist shop. Over the years, Robert had several different locations, including Park Avenue and 23rd Street, before settling at the current spot in 2006. Although he is semi-retired, his son Chris explained with a grin that his dad still “comes in to bellow and bark at people.”
Despite the fact that all three brothers helped their father work in the shop when they were growing up, each one stated that they had no intention of entering the flower business. Rob studied film and Chris and Jonny, the youngest, majored in business. Rob was the first to join his father at Scotts in 2013 as an interim job, and then got “sucked in.” He told us that his biggest contribution to the company was that he “brought in the internet.” The addition of online sales and Rob’s efforts to begin thoroughly branding the company doubled the size of the business in just a year. Meanwhile, Chris was stuck in the business world and was not enjoying it. He was living with Rob in the East Village at the time, and when his older brother asked him to help with the rapidly expanding family business, Chris joined him. Jonny is the newest member of the team, having only graduated college in 2014. After only spending a short time with the three, it was evident that they had each carved out their own niche within the shop – Rob is the charismatic marketing man, Chris is the quiet business mastermind, and Jonny is the hands-on man-of-the-people.
When I asked what Robert Sr. thought of all three of his sons working together in the family business, Chris replied, “My father is to the moon.” It seems that the whole Palliser clan is involved in the shop, including Silvana, the boys’ mother, who occasionally does the bookkeeping. Rob, Chris and Jonny have their suspicions about their father – they are certain that he planted the seed in their minds that caused each of them to ultimately come back to Scotts. Despite the fact that they disliked having to come here during their vacation days when they were school boys, they always noticed when their father would point out the window of the car at signs that had “and Sons” or “and Bros.” on them. At an early age they understood how badly he wanted his flower business to become a family affair. “He was drilling it into our head at a very young age,” Rob commented.
Since the three brothers have taken over, Scotts has experienced many changes. Where the business used to get most of its clients through the wedding industry, now most of the flowers are going to restaurants, hotel lobbies, and corporate events. The company also has a small gardening department for city rooftops. With the addition of an online side to the business, Scotts has been able to implement Same Day Delivery. Rob is also “putting structure into the business” by branding it. The company has a new logo, which has replaced a series of eight different logos that would change depending on the season.
The Palliser brothers are very proud of the charity work that they do, including dedicating arrangements to the Avon Walk to end Breast Cancer. On the day that we visited in early November, the three brothers were celebrating “Movember” – they were not shaving in order to draw attention to men’s health issues. The Pallisers hope to open up a few more locations. “I have a vision. I’d like to go to Brooklyn one day,” Rob mentioned. It was really moving to see three sons working so happily at a trade that their father had strived so hard to build for them. “I love it,” Rob told me, adding that he is always eager to start a day filled with flowers. “I keep waking up early, before my alarm clock.”