“Valentine’s Day is the biggest day of the year, and we want to do it really well,” says Stephanie Frank, co-owner of Posies Flower Truck in Tampa Bay, Florida. Frank isn’t alone in her observation. The Society of American Florists says the holiday easily claims the mantle as the top U.S. holiday for flower sales, and it estimates growers produce more than 250 million roses annually for this celebration alone.
Mobile flower truck owners like Frank cruise directly to consumers with blooms and bouquets for Valentine’s Day and any occasion. Here, meet four flower truck owners who ride the waves of seasonal business booms with ingenuity, superb customer experiences and photogenic rides.
Posies Flower Truck
Frank and her husband, David, of Oldsmar, Florida, were experienced entrepreneurs when, in Frank’s words, they went from “tech to tulips.” The duo spent 30 years running an IT company and its companion web development company before Frank’s marketing ploy to use a VW camper for client meetings drew her into a network of vintage vehicle owners. When fellow VW owner Stephanie Newton, who originally founded Posies Flower Truck in 2017 put the namesake 1968 VW single cab truck up for sale, Frank and her husband pounced.
They officially took over ownership in May 2021. Since the Franks have been at the wheel, Posies has outgrown their home garage where they initially planned to run the business. It now occupies a 3,000-square-foot warehouse space and will soon have a fleet of five flower trucks, including a 1968 VW double cab named Daisy and a 1960 VW split window single cab they plan to have out in Tampa by Valentine’s Day 2023. They’re even considering franchising the business.
Frank says she wants to stay in her lane—and that lane is the trucks, which customers quickly fall in love with just as Frank did. “People want to experience the trucks. They’re very Instagram-worthy,” she says.
Frank says a boom time like Valentine’s Day means anticipating sales and locking in a wholesale flower order early to secure good pricing. In 2022, Posies sold 5,000 roses alone, not to mention other flower varieties. That year Frank felt frustrated she couldn’t meet demand with a single truck. It’s a challenge she hopes to surmount with the expanded fleet of eye-catching vintage beauties soon.
Lenita by GRITA
Los Angeles, California
Owning a flower truck was a “someday” plan for Brazilian-born graphic designer Nemuel DePaula. However, after doing the flowers for a friend’s 2016 wedding, he decided to launch a mobile flower truck. Already at the helm of Los Angeles Arts District studio GRITA, DePaula had a unique take on the business. His first head-turning move was transforming a ’91 Dodge Aeromate that looks more like a quintessential LA food truck into a petal-pink charmer for blossoms. He named the truck after his mother.
At each weekend pop-up, he invites local artisans, from candle makers to jewelry designers, to sell their creations alongside his hand-tied arrangements. “It’s all about the experience,” he says. “We can’t just depend on the product. People won’t leave the house for a product that can just get mailed to them. It has to be enjoyable.”
Pre-orders help him anticipate the Valentine’s Day rush but finding the sweet spot in his customers’ budgets is a challenge. “We’re dealing with impulse shoppers in front of a coffee shop. We have to think about what people will realistically spend,” he says. DePaula notes that inflation has increased costs dramatically, and the Valentine’s Day demand will only further that trend. He worries shoppers will think the florist is just trying to clean up and tries to remind consumers that costs are passed down the supply chain from farmers to transportation operators to florists. “It’s hectic and it’s pricey. It shifts your operation onto another level. It’s triple the workload, but it’s also triple the gratification,” he says.
The McCrary family stewards 1818 Farms with a mission to carry on traditional and sustainable farming methods and the value of craftsmanship. Their flower truck is central to their seed-to-vase initiative. “We hope to educate others on how to bring fresh-cut flowers into their home, from cultivating to when and how to harvest. Not everyone can make it to the farm, but we can bring a load of flowers to them,” Natasha McCrary says.
Overall, the zero-waste farm is a big business. It produces handmade products, such as shea creme and bath soaks, now carried in “572 stores in 45 states and online.” McCrary’s business acumen also earned 1818 Farms Amazon’s United States “Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year” award in 2019. While the baby blue 1965 Ford F100 is only a small part of the overall business’ bottom line, McCrary says it has been instrumental in brand recognition and has created synergy by appearing at businesses that carry the farm’s line of body products.
Because the flower truck only sells farm-grown blossoms, its inventory is subject to Mother Nature’s whims.
“We’ve been preparing for Easter and Mother’s Day since July,” she says. “Everything went into the ground in October, and we’ve been babying it all winter. Last year, [the bloom] missed Easter by a week. We can’t force nature.” Peak harvest is in July, when the muggy Alabama heat keeps customers from turning up on the flower truck’s route and there aren’t peak holidays on the calendar. The farm keeps cash flowing across seasons with dried flower arrangements, flowers pressed in resin, a bouquet subscription service and workshops that bring shoppers to the source.
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Tending her grandmother’s garden inspired Annie Abrahamson to build a flower business.
“I thought it would be awesome to have a business that brings people joy for the sake of joy, kindness for the sake of being kind and beauty for the sake of being beautiful,” she says. When her best friend, Jess Hein, shared her dream and found their 1967 International Harvester (lovingly named Watsonia), Bloom Bar was born. Watsonia, or Watson for short, travels the Front Range outside Denver from April to October, and for holidays such as Valentine’s Day. Bloom Bar also has a 1963 Lincraft camper, aka Willow, that operates year-round in a semi-permanent location.
Bloom Bar rides the seasonal business tides by offering a subscription service, which has added new revenue and complexity to the business. With the delivery service, “there’s a lot of administration and behind-the-scenes work. We had to find a routing system and drivers. Then gas prices got higher. On days when the weather is below freezing, we have to work with subscribers to make sure flowers are brought inside quickly,” Abrahamson says. “It’s one thing to teach yourself how to build bouquets. It’s another to deal with all the things that don’t have anything to do with flowers.”
The flower truck owners agree: One of the hardest aspects of running a mobile flower truck business is operating and maintaining their vintage trucks. Abrahamson says Watson sets their delivery zone by how far she can go. “She’s an old girl,” she laughs. “When I get in, I’m always saying, ‘Please start today and drive well.’”
Photo by 1818 Farms