3 Flower Trucks, 3 Different Fresh Flower Experiences
Flower trucks are on a roll.
So should you take your fresh flower show on the road?
We asked the owners of three trucks—a florist at a family garden center, a big city entrepreneur and a rural couple with a baby and toddler—for their experiences and insights.
Like food trucks, flower trucks draw crowds at festivals, parties, weddings, shopping center and community events, delivering fresh flower hands-on experiences.
With a boost from social media, these mobile merchants reach flower shoppers who enjoy a fresh experience as much as purchasing a product. By choosing vintage vehicles, some also add photo-worthy cachet to their brand.
Here’s what we learned from the owners.
A family affair: Graf’s Flower Truck
“With a flower truck we can reach people where they are,” explains Karlie Graf of Graf’s Flower Truck in Akron, Ohio. “At fleas, a craft show or local event shoppers are more likely to stop by a truck than visit a store.”
For Karlie, flowers are a family affair dating back to 1910 and her great-grandfather’s farm. 100 descendants later, Karlie works alongside her dad, aunt and uncle at the garden center.
In July, 2018, they added a flower truck named Gladys.
The Ohio truck season is from mid-June through October. High tunnel greenhouses help extend the growing season. “Our goal is to extend the selling season to March or April by 2020,” Karlie explains.
Selling from a flower bar
“Working from a flower truck is the same as a shop, but in a smaller space,” says Karlie.
Flowers are picked and processed the day before an event. Eight to ten buckets of flower stems are selected for the flower bar along with ten buckets of pre-made flower bundles.
“Our most popular item is lisianthus, but we’re also known for our dahlias, zinnias and sunflowers.” Bouquets account for 90 percent of sales. A flower food packet is given with each bouquet.
“We grow a lot of our own woodies like winterberry, curly willow and red twig dogwood, that are popular, too,” says Karlie. Plants, succulents and house plants sell well from the truck and workshops at the store.
“We share the Graf story in our store, online and with workshop attendees,” says Karlie. “We print posters, T-shirts and offer a weekly handout to promote our store and truck events.”
JJ’s Flower Truck
Atlanta resident Sarah Rice started looking for a new hobby or side gig in July, 2018. “I wanted to do something I would enjoy and flowers sounded fun.”
She wasn’t ready to open a brick and mortar flower shop. She began her research, took floral classes, looked into permits and started searching for a truck.
In August, she located a 1968 VW Transporter in Beverly Hills, California. She had it inspected by a local mechanic and transported to Georgia. Her dad tagged the 51-year-old vehicle “Bev”.
Sarah named her budding business JJ’s after her sidekick and favorite pup, Jaxon Jones.
Bev arrived with a metal structure and canvas canopy. After wooden shelving and a logo were added, the 26-bucket flower truck went on the road in September.
Build-your-own-bouquet business model
About 90 percent of the business involves customers building their own bouquets, with Sarah giving design tips as needed. Flowers are priced per stem.
She often designs bouquets for customers, especially men. Pre-made bouquets are also available.
About half of JJ’s events are privately hosted; the rest are public events. Some are by invitation, others by permit.
Sarah finds that customers outside the city prefer traditional flowers like roses and sunflowers. Inside the city a wildflower look is more popular. She adjusts her selection and price to the location and type of event.
“I haven’t paid for any marketing,” says Sarah. “The business markets itself. People love to take photos and share them on social media.”
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Display Bucket Possibilities
Considering a flower truck?
Sarah suggests that you spend some time researching your area.
- Who is your target market?
- Where can you connect with them?
- How much will they spend?
- What permits and licenses will you need?
Then seek business advice and feedback from people you trust.
The business is seasonal. Sarah is considering opening a winter pop-up store.
Local Bloom Flower Truck
Carlee and Jordan Wallpe wanted a business they could grow along with a family.
Carlee has always enjoyed flowers. Jordan’s dad was a mechanic and he grew up with an appreciation for old trucks. In 2017, they put their passions together selling her flowers from his old Ford truck.
They began Local Bloom Flower Truck on the westside of Indianapolis, planning to support local flower farmers supplemented when needed with blooms from wholesale suppliers.
Then the couple moved home to Greensburg, Indiana, to raise their sons Rhett, 2, and Briggs, 6 weeks.
Growing a business and a family
Relocating back to Greensburg (population 12,000) required tweaking their business plan.
Events accounted for 90 percent of the 12-bucket truck’s income while they were in Indy. Living in a rural area doesn’t offer the same event opportunities.
“It’s important to figure out what your customers want and what they’re willing to pay,” says Jordan.
What drives their orders? “We network with other businesses, post to social media and our customers all have Carlee’s number to call,” he explains.
Flowers are priced by the stem for public events. For private events, the selection is customized and paid in advance. Popular choices include sunflowers, lisianthus and protea.
Bouquet delivery and hands-on classes were added to accommodate a slower-paced market. Christmas wreath-making classes help extend the season.
Work space can be a challenge
Carlee designs wedding flowers they deliver in the old Ford truck.
“If you’re selling from a truck, you need additional storage and flower processing space.” says Jordan. “I built a flower cooler in our garage and we work there.”
They hope to grow their wedding business and are considering a subscription delivery service. They also hope someday for to open a roadside or retail shop with garden-grown flowers.
Permits are becoming a challenge
With the exponential growth of mobile merchants like food and flower trucks, city governments are struggling to keep up with proper Transient Vendor Permits. Rules and regulations can change quickly.
“JJ’s participates in events all over the metro Atlanta area. Keeping up with the various permits in different areas is a challenge,” says Sarah. “Be sure you’re up to date with your permits!”
Have you considered adding a flower truck to your floral business?