Just Say Yes!
A business that continually goes above and beyond seems to be a bit of a rarity these days. Add in an abundance of friendly, personal service; plenty of hard work; and a “can-do” attitude, and you have the perfect recipe for success. That reputation is what Roth’s Florist owner Stephen Clawson believes has helped his shop survive and thrive all these years. The 125-year-old floral shop, which has been run by only two families, has been an FTD member for 100 of those years.
Roth’s is based in Lafayette, Indiana, a city with a population of over 70,000. It has the added benefit of being across the Wabash River from Purdue University, which is another great source of business. The shop has also held on to their local customer base, with many generations of the same families shopping at Roth’s.
We recently chatted with Stephen to learn a little more about Roth’s history, success and where they are headed:
Can you tell us a little bit about the history of your shop and your background?
SC: The business was started in early 1895 by five brothers, and was supported by greenhouses built on the west side of the river. They owned a lot of property and were very successful. With the Great Depression, however, they lost some of the ground but were able to remain in their original location until the 1940s. Then, 77 years ago, the shop was moved to Main Street in the historic district, where it remains today. It’s a relevant corner, near the courthouse and downtown.
Why do you think your shop has been able to survive all these years?
SC: Success in our business is built on your reputation—it’s all about who you are—and trust. With our shop, customers know they will get what they want and more. In addition, the word “No” has never been in my vocabulary—I always find a way to do what customers need. I typically forward the shop phone to our house after hours. I’ve gotten many orders this way—a prime example was a young man in Iraq who called me at 6 a.m. to order flowers for his wife who lived locally. Of course, we were the only shop available at that time of the morning and we were able to help him. Our website helps support our business with local, national and international orders. In addition, we know that long-term, dependable, hardworking staff who take pride in what they do has also been critical to our success.
How are you getting through the pandemic?
SC: We were fortunate that our business could continue operating, although our doors were closed. Phone and internet orders kept us busy, and we did touchless deliveries and curbside pick ups. Although our business was down a bit, so were some of our expenses. For us, Mother’s Day was huge, especially because people couldn’t personally visit their moms. Even though we have recently reopened our shop, we are doing business differently and have made changes to ensure the safety of our staff and customers. However, lots of offices around us are still closed, so there’s not a lot of foot traffic. I really miss the visits from customers!
When did you get involved in the floral industry?
SC: I started at Roth’s in June 1965 as a young teen, working for Molly and Jack Roth. I ended up with a part-time job after school and on weekends washing windows, sweeping floors, mopping coolers—basically whatever needed to be done. I then joined the National Guard and attended Purdue to become a dentist. But, Molly encouraged me to work for a year at a florist in Indianapolis, which was a big learning experience, especially regarding specialty flowers. By the age of 23, I decided the floral industry was for me and I took over the business. It gave me the same freedom to be my own boss. I had to quickly learn how to buy for a holiday, keep products fresh and not overbuy.
What business practices did you carry over? What are you doing differently?
SC: Although there are some ways the business is the same—like personal service—there are many things that have changed with the use of credit cards, computers and the internet. Our business is no longer just local, it comes from around the country and world. We keep up-to-date with technology, as the internet is the way most people shop now. FTD’s technology and knowledge is vital for our continued website orders and business growth.
What do you enjoy most about the industry?
SC: I really enjoy the friendships that we have developed through this business. Many customers come in to place an order, but stay for about 40 minutes to chat. Some even visit with our black poodle, who is typically in the shop with my wife Patty and me. We really get to know our customers and what they prefer, and we also offer guidance in selecting flowers. People have a good feeling when they are here and that means a lot. I’ve walked through the same back door for over 50 years, yet every day is different; every order is different. We work long hours, but when we are able to get everything done and the customer is happy, it’s a great day.
What is your shop’s motto or focus?
SC: We’ve had some extraordinary requests regarding time and products, but if we can do it, we will! And, if something isn’t right with an order, we quickly try to make it right.
What’s the #1 thing your customers thank you for?
SC: We often get thanked for going the extra distance. If we have extra product that we aren’t going to use or sell, we will add it to an order free of charge. And, we care about every customer—from those that buy a single rose to those who place an order for a major event. A fun example of this happened one night when we were still here working at 3 a.m. A couple walking down the street noticed we were there, knocked on the door and asked if we would sell a single rose. We did. Two months later, they came back and placed an order for a $2,500 wedding!
What is the most exciting thing your shop has done?
SC: For 15 years, our town held a historical Dickens festival and we participated in that holiday event. It was a wonderful celebration that brought people back to our shop in the following weeks. In 1980, President Reagan came to town and we did all the flowers for his room and a private event. Decades before that, Bobby Kennedy came through town as well, and we did flowers for that visit, too.
What are your goals for your shop for the year ahead?
SC: It’s important to keep business at a manageable level and stay strong in what we do right. We want to continue to be viewed as a relevant, reliable shop that lives up to our tagline: Only the best since 1895.