In the 6/07 issue, we published a profile of the Red Hook-based wedding, floral, and event design studio Stems Inc (“Better Blooms: Stems Inc.”). In the article, we quoted Stems Inc. owner Maggie Oyen at length about various techniques she uses in the handling and storage of flowers that diverge from mainstream floral industry standards, for example, never putting her flowers into a cooler for storage. (Kurt Schroeder, director of marketing and quality assurance for the Delaware Valley Floral Group, states that 33 degrees is the ideal temperature for floral storage, though tropical flowers should be kept between 55 and 60 degrees.) After speaking with a number of experts in the floral industry, we realize that while Stems may be using alternative floral storage practices, there is no damage done to flowers that are shipped and cared for via conventional means. The article implied this mistaken impression. Our apologies.
In late June, we received a letter from Jim Reardon, owner of E.A. Coon Florist in Rhinebeck, in response to the Stems Inc. profile. Reardon’s letter is printed in its entirety on the next page.
—Brian K. Mahoney
June 28, 2007
My name is Jim Reardon and I am the President and owner of E.A. Coon Florist located in Rhinebeck. E. A. Coon Florist was founded in 1905 and has been serving Rhinebeck and the surrounding area for 102 years. As a professional florist, occasional advertiser and constant distributor of Chronogram Magazine, I was, to say the least, very upset with the article “ Better Blooms “ Stems Inc. by Ann Braybrooks that appears in the 6/07 issue. I find this article to be full of untruths and inconsistencies and feel that Ms.Oyen used a naïve and uninformed reporter to promote herself and her business. Starting from the beginning of the article I will explain.
In the first paragraph Ms. Oyen states they never use black buckets, which mask the condition of the water, that they use white. I fail to see the relevance of bucket color contributing to the condition of the water. Water condition is determined by freshness and the amount of decaying material in the water which leads to bacteria growth. If color of bucket was the determining factor it would be reasonable to state the bucket should be clear. You can not observe water inside a white bucket any better than black.
Next Ms. Oyen states that Stems doesn’t use a cooler “our flowers are never put into a cooler- never”, a rarity in the business. That is a truth; it is a rarity and is contrary to industry standards. She states, “They get to drink and revive.” There are proven practices for handling flowers and it seems that Ms. Oyen has either chosen to ignore them or has not educated herself as to what they are. Professional florists realize they are dealing with a very perishable product and take advantage of every method available to them, to prolong the life, freshness and quality of their flowers. When flowers arrive in our store we immediately unpack them and prepare them. We start by removing any foliage that may be submerged below the waterline that would lead to decay and bacteria growth. The stems are then cut (not chopped as Ms. Oyen states) on a 45 degree angle which maximizes the surface area for the uptake of a specially mixed hydration solution. This hydration solution dilates the capillary system in the stems and maximizes the uptake of nutrients to the blossoms. The flowers are allowed to re-hydrate for several hours and are then placed in a solution of flower food and water. Once flowers are re hydrated and allowed to harden they are then placed in a cooler (38 degrees is the ideal temperature not 42 as erroneously stated by Ms. Oyen) to protect them from deterioration and to make them last as long as possible. Ms. Oyen makes reference to being a former pilot and flight instructor and that flowers are “thrown into unpressurized cargo bins on airplanes and that it is freezing cold at 37,500 feet.” I am a florist, not a pilot and have no idea what happens in the airline industry. However I do know that if flowers are allowed to freeze they will die and turn black and would not be able to be sold. That is why we put them in coolers not freezers. Ms. Oyen contradicts herself again by stating “flowers are a crop like anything else – bananas, apples, potatoes.” The minute you harvest you are on damage control. So the more conscientious you are, from the point of harvest, the longer your flowers are going to live.” Helloooo, you would not leave your food such as meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables un-refrigerated would you?
Ms Oyen also claims to know “how things get from point A to B, she started Stems Inc., which she cites as being the pioneer in shipping flowers from the wholesaler to the end user without a middleman.” I would argue that if she is getting flowers from a wholesaler and shipping them to a consumer then that makes her the middleman. Ms. Oyen also states that “When I used to fly to St. Louis to see her husband she realized that you couldn’t get any fresh flowers in the Midwest.” Apparently the thousands of flower shops and millions of consumers and in the Midwest are ignorant and do not know the difference between good and bad. Do you see a pattern here? Stems has been in existence for ten years. The floral industry has been around forever and survived by using proven methods for product care and by educating consumers as to how to care for those products.
Ms. Oyen has not a clue about how my shop or any other shop cares for their flowers, just as prior to her article I had no idea how she cared for hers. I constantly receive calls from customers stating how long our flowers last. I attribute that to uncompromising standards of care, and based on what I now know, would gladly put my product up against hers anytime and unequivocally state that mine will last longer.
There are about 25 members of the Mid Hudson Florist Association and we meet on a monthly basis where we discuss industry news, ideas and educate ourselves. Ms. Oyen is not a member nor has she ever attended one of our meetings. I also attend FTD National Conventions for the same reasons and have never seen her there either. Our local wholesalers host design and educational shows for our benefit and I have not seen Ms. Oyen at any of these as well.
Incidentally, prior to opening Stems, Ms. Oyen used to purchase her flowers in my store. This is not the first time she has used local publications to promote herself. The sad part is that she never backs anything up with fact, and the reporters never do any research to prove what she states is correct . I feel you have done the floral industry a great injustice by publishing this article and even more alarming is the injustice you have done your readers by publishing an article that is pure B.S. I don’t care how Ms. Oyen cares for her flowers or how she runs her business, it is a free country. However I do care about how the public feels about flowers and professional florists. I would ask that you inform your readers about proper flower care backed up by proven practices and science. Please feel free to use this letter as a rebuttal if you so choose. Below is my contact information. I will look forward to hearing from you.
E. A. Coon Florist
6536 Springbrook Ave
Rhinebeck, NY 12572