year in early March as the COVID-19 began raging and we were all locked
down wondering what would happen next, the tulip beds springing back to
life around our home sent their quiet message of life and renewal and
In uncertain times being able to slow down
a bit and contemplate the flowers works.
Undoubtedly if you work in the flower business
whether growing or selling or shipping you have felt that a special affection
We spoke to Joost Bongaerts, (pictured
right) owner and President of California-based Florabundance.
Florabundance is located in Carpinteria
California, a small oceanside city of about 12,000 located 11 miles from
Santa Barbara and 92 miles from LAX.
It may be arguable that more sea lions,
seals and dolphins than people live in Carpinteria, but no one disputes
that the place is beautiful.
Florabundance is a high-end premium quality
provider of wholesale fresh cut flowers, foliage, garlands, wreaths, and
bouquets for florists, floral designers, special event companies, and
other professionals in the floral industry.
They are a Certified American Grown wholesaler.
Joost is deep dish into flowers with a thriving
wholesale and retail business.
Born in 1959 in Den Haag, (Haach) The Netherlands,
Joost’s father managed agricultural land holdings all over the country.
From The Ground Up
Joost spent summers working on his family’s
farm in northern Holland and became interested in agriculture and horticulture
as a result.
He studied at Wellant College in Gouda,
graduating with a degree in Plant Science.
“The COVID-19 has had wide impact
on the flower industry due to cancellations of weddings and forced closures,”
“But like everything else when business
becomes impossible you pivot as much as possible, which in our case has
been to migrate to online sales and operations.
“I am amazed after 40 years in this
business that this year the usually stable tulip prices are actually quite
high. But tulips, as many know, have a special place with people and now
that the season begins sales are good.
“So, we will have to pass these costs
on for now and hope that prices get back to normal all around, “Joost
“We are members of CalFlowers, an
organization of growers, wholesalers and retailers in California.
“Many businesses in our trade are
down 30 to 45% but most recently we can say that it is getting better,
“The challenge is to not operate an
old business model. We have formed specialist operations online and combined
this expert sales assistance to sell roses directly from Colombia &
Ecuador in addition to the world.
“We are wholesalers, floral consultants
and increasingly specialists,” Joost said.
“Although we are not anticipating
shortages during the flower season, the challenge with shipping is the
dramatic global cut back in passenger flights and lack of frequencies,
notably out of AMS and elsewhere.”
Sky High Rates
“We have sidestepped to move flowers
via LHR, but as with everything else limited space has driven rates up
with logistics emerging again in 2021 as a definite seller’s market.
“We are not experiencing shipments
bumped because of vaccine—but as an industry, we are faced again
with sky high rates right now, “Joost declared.
“Luckily for us we have cargo lift
contracts via Calflowers with FedEx as example,” Joost said.
“But in some cases, as shippers our
major concern is that we are navigating through a time filled with delays
and no service guarantees otherwise,” Joost declared.
“I remain positive and think once
the vaccine does its job our business will come back and be even better
A Flowering Lifetime
Joost’s background and experience
in selling flower bulbs to growers, importing cut flowers and running
a successful retail flower shop provides a unique perspective from which
he has developed the California-based Florabundance brand into one of
the premier wholesalers in the United States.
Joost and his wife Alexandra, who also works
in the business moved from Connecticut full time to California in 2008
and have two grown children.
But having been in the flower industry now
for 40 years Joost credits his longevity to “staying ahead of the
game, “diversifying and always being open to ideas to expand and
enhance product line offerings and service delivery.
“We are in several aspects of this
business but have advanced our whole sale reach to retailers as well as
to the high-end public, as opposed to supermarkets or Costco sales.
“As example a few years ago, we launched
bulkwholesalers.com that is currently doing very well.
“But we also see our core retail customer
that likes to buy flowers is stuck at home.”
Joost serves as a member of the Board of
Directors for The California Association of Flower Growers & Shippers
(CalFlowers, formerly known as NORCAL).
CalFlowers was founded in 1941 by a small
group of flower shipping companies to foster the success of the California
floral industry within the United States.
Today CalFlowers is the leading floral trade
association in California serving growers and the entire supply chain
in the state and in 48 states across the nation.
CalFlowers has been instrumental in developing
standards for the entire industry.
CalFlowers initiated the Box Standardization
Program (that is trending the market toward a 40” box for bulk shipping).
This initiative is aimed making flower shipping
more cost effective while maintaining the high quality of the floral products
as they leave their farms.
“The flower industry can do some things
to enhance its position ,”Joost declared.
“What we should do collectively is
market ourselves as an industry more aggressively. Promote the use of
every day cut flowers as a united industry
“There is no collective effort by
the flower industry to message what we do and why we provide a vital and
“People love flowers.
“We need to talk to our customers
and also to new business.
“I believe the flower industry can
help itself, by delivering a message that moves the needle a couple points.
“Now is the time to make new friends
and enhance our image in the global market place, by talking more directly
as an industry to our customers,” Joost Bongaerts declared.