LARGO — A customer walking into Carlson-Wildwood Florist would first notice the heady fragrance of fresh flowers and exotic plants.
Next they'd see the funky faux leopard carpeting throughout the shop.
Leopard spots are quickly forgotten, however, among all the other things to see, including handblown Polish glass vases, French-milled soaps, blooming orchids, handmade greeting cards and wire animals made with real moss.
But the business' main attraction is its head designer, 25-year-old Matthew Pacheco.
Cheryl Pacheco never dreamed her son would be joining the business when she bought it six years ago.
"He was working for a florist in Charlotte, N.C., and came back here to go to school and work part time for me," she said. "When he decided school wasn't working out, he joined me full time and now he's my star designer. He does really unusual designs and handles all the high-end arrangements."
Last fall, Pacheco and her husband, John, a marine engineer who works as a contractor for the Navy, bought property at 1488 Clearwater-Largo Road to expand their shop. They moved the business from Belleair and leased a temporary space near the new property in Largo. Now that all the permits and plans are in place, construction is about to begin.
"We hope to be in our new home by December," said Cheryl Pacheco.
In addition to flowers and gourmet and gift baskets, the new place will offer classes in flower arranging, including the Japanese ikebana style. Local ceramic artists will be invited to display work that can be used for floral arrangements.
Carlson florist has been a local institution for 60 years. In 1991, its owners at the time bought Wildwood florist and combined the names. The Pachecos purchased the business in 2002.
What do you enjoy most about the florist business?
"No two days are the same. I love that part. Every day is a new challenge," Cheryl Pacheco said.
"It's hard work, but it's a lot of fun and it makes people happy most of the time. Funerals are tough."
What are the disadvantages?
"The stress," she said. "There's a lot of stress. Like if you have a special order and the flowers come in bruised or the wrong color.
The first wedding I ever did was booked by the previous owners. They had ordered peach gerber daisies. What arrived were white gerber daisies and a can of paint.
On busy days, designers are on their feet 10 to 12 hours, lifting heavy buckets of water with flowers, cleaning the flowers, cleaning the vases, cleaning the buckets. You get pretty dirty. There's a lot of sweeping and hauling trash."
Where do your flowers come from?
"Most of them come from Colombia, Guatemala and Ecuador. Others come from all over the world: Holland, New Zealand, Australia, California, Israel," she said. "Most flowers don't have a season anymore. You can get tulips most any time, hydrangeas anytime. Carnations are getting to be very expensive and difficult to find. A lot of growers don't want to grow them because other flowers have a higher profit."
Daughter joins her dad's dental practice
Dr. Stacey Verkler has joined her father's 25-year dental practice at 1246 Florida Ave. in Palm Harbor.
Like her father, Dr. Dan Knellinger, she is a graduate of the University of Florida and earned her dental degree from the University of Louisville. She grew up in Palm Harbor and graduated from Palm Harbor University High School.
Knellinger is a Palm Harbor native and attended local schools, including Tarpon Springs High School. Both father and daughter are members of the American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association and Florida West Coast Dental Association.
Nicholas Zembillas joins prestigious panel
Nicholas M. Zembillas, a senior vice president of the utilities division and a principal of the TBE Group based in Clearwater, has been appointed to the International Right-of-Way and Utilities Scan Delegation.
The delegation is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials and the Transportation Research Board. Zembillas is one of only two representatives from the private sector to be named to the delegation.
Zembillas is an internationally recognized expert in subsurface utility engineering, an engineering process that incorporates civil engineering, surface geophysics, surveying and mapping, non-destructive excavation and technologies to identify and classify subsurface utilities.
Under Zembillas' leadership, TBE's utilities division has been recognized as a subsurface utility engineering leader by the Federal Highway Administration and departments of transportation throughout the United States and Canada. He has lectured worldwide on the subject and authored articles for technical publications.
TBE is an award-winning, full service international civil engineering and consulting firm with more than 40 offices throughout the United States, Canada, the U.K,, China and Puerto Rico. The firm specializes in subsurface utility engineering, survey, right-of-way mapping and utility coordination services. Its corporate offices are at 380 Park Place Blvd., Clearwater.
Richard Fuller will lead the Civitan Club
Richard J. Fuller, who has owned a local accounting firm since 1982, has been elected president of the Clearwater Civitan Club. A 30-year Civitan member, he will be installed at an annual awards dinner in October at Countryside Country Club.
Fuller is the founder of the Tampa Bay CPA Group and a member of the Pinellas County Estate Planning Council. He previously worked for Esso International in charge of international accounting and for Arthur Young and Company in New York and Tampa. He has been an arbitrator for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the New York Stock Exchange. He has a master's degree from the University of Missouri.
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