Make us your home page
Instagram

Lou's Florist adds wine to adapt to different era

John and Kim Lovell turned Lou’s Florist, started by John’s grandfather in 1956, into Lou’s Florist & Wine Garden a year ago after scarcer flower sales and fiercer competition from big-box stores, grocery stores and the Internet. Half their floor space is dedicated to wine.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

John and Kim Lovell turned Lou’s Florist, started by John’s grandfather in 1956, into Lou’s Florist & Wine Garden a year ago after scarcer flower sales and fiercer competition from big-box stores, grocery stores and the Internet. Half their floor space is dedicated to wine.

ST. PETE BEACH

When customers stopped buying flowers, Lou's Florist started buying wine.

No, John and Kim Lovell, third-generation owners of Lou's Florist in St. Pete Beach, did not slosh their business woes in alcohol. They filled half their store with vino from around the world, put "wine" in their name and began offering gift baskets and hosting free tastings at their Blind Pass Road store.

It worked. A year later, Lou's Florist & Wine Garden, which began in 1956 as Lou's Florist, is carrying on as a hybrid business designed to stay afloat in tough times.

"We knew we had to come up with an idea. What else were we going to offer to customers?" said Kim, 48, co-owner of the business, who also runs Seaside Florals, a small shop at the Don CeSar Beach Resort.

Competition from big retail chains and the Internet have wilted mom-and-pop flower businesses.

"Home Depot sells stuff for the price I pay for it. I have to mark it up to make a profit," said John, 52, whose grandfather, Lou Lovell, opened the shop in 1956 on 75th Avenue. His father, Glenn, opened the current location in 1987.

Flowers are just another luxury item that many people are doing without, said Matthew Pacheco, regional director for the Florida State Florists Association.

"Every single day there's at least one store that's closing," said Pacheco, 26, whose family owns Carlson Wildwood Florist in Clearwater.

Coincidentally, Carlson Wildwood will soon begin selling beer and wine in addition to flowers, Pacheco said.

The markup on a bottle of wine isn't as good as on a birthday bouquet. But unlike a tender flower, wine only improves with age.

The Lovells filled half the floor space in their 4,200-square-foot store with 200 wines, thinking the synergy would be good. They figured that Home Depot and Walgreens and Publix couldn't offer their level of artistry and service. And they thought they could offer something more intimate than the bigger wine stores already in the area.

Unlike the big chains, each flower at Lou's is hand selected. Bouquets are assembled to order by floral arrangers. For a small fee, the shop will deliver your wine and roses.

Their free Friday night wine tastings have been successful, drawing partnerships with local restaurants that bring food, and readings by authors and artists that bring their work.

Some things at Lou's remain the same. On a decades-old map on the back wall, Pinellas County is broken up into four corridors by a felt tip pen: north, south, east and west. Each chunk represents the area serviced by major flower shops. During the 1970s fuel crisis, the shops formed a partnership to save gas. They'd meet every day and take deliveries in each other's areas. Today, the arrangement lives on.

Is there a fourth generation to carry on the store?

The Lovells' sons, 25 and 30, run a paving business. John said his sons make more money than he does. He doesn't plan on going out of business any time soon, but also doesn't expect his sons to take over.

"Probably not going to happen," Lovell said, "unless something big changes."

Luis Perez can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2271.

Fast Facts

If you go

Lou's Florist & Wine Garden

7800 Blind Pass Road, St. Pete Beach. (727) 367-1921.

Lou's Florist adds wine to adapt to different era 07/25/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 25, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code

    Banking

    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  2. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]
  3. Clearwater attorney accused of condo foreclosure trickery fights back

    Real Estate

    The Clearwater lawyer accused of tricking a bidder into paying $458,100 for a gulf-front condo now plans to contest a judge's order tossing out the sale.

    John Houde, left, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground, in August during a hearing Sixth Judicial Circuit court Judge Jack St. Arnold at the Pinellas County Courthouse. The judge agreed with Houde's allegation that he was duped by Skelton in thinking he bought a Redington Beach condo for $458,100 out of a foreclosure auction. Now Skelton is fighting back. 
[DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  4. How a group of Florida tomato growers could help derail NAFTA

    Agriculture

    Tony DiMare, a third-generation Florida tomato grower, has spent two decades contending with cheap Mexican imports, watching his neighbors abandon crops in their fields and sell off their farms when they couldn't match the price of incoming produce.

    Workers fill a trailer with tomatoes as they harvest them in the fields of DiMare Farms in Florida City. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images(2013)]
  5. Pinellas deputies go door-to-door at dawn to arrest unlicensed contractors

    Crime

    Pinellas deputies began pounding on doors at 5 a.m. Tuesday, part of a widespread roundup of contractors accused of working without licences and workers compensation.

    Pinellas Sheriff deputies J. Short, left, and T. Festa, right, arrest suspect Randy Ronchi, center, in Largo early Tuesday, as part of a joint roundup of unlicensed contractors. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]