How technology reshaped Boise’s Hillcrest Floral

Nick Harrigfeld, owner of Hillcrest Floral and Gift, says he hasn’t raised prices in six years. “We don’t dare to. Flowers are a luxury,” he says.
Nick Harrigfeld, owner of Hillcrest Floral and Gift, says he hasn’t raised prices in six years. “We don’t dare to. Flowers are a luxury,” he says.

Nick Harrigfeld has cut, arranged and sold more than a few flowers in his 32 years owning Hillcrest Floral and Gift. He’s seen trends in flower preferences change as well as business climates. The shop sells 40 to 50 arrangements each day on average and ramps up for Mother’s Day and especially for Valentine’s Day, when it handles around 700 deliveries in three days.

Harrigfeld, 59, says he still enjoys coming to work with his 10 employees at 5204 Overland Road in Boise’s Hillcrest Shopping Center. Customers apparently still enjoy shopping there: Voters named Hillcrest Floral as the top florist shop in the Idaho Statesman’s last three Best of the Treasure Valley awards.

Q: What was your florist experience before owning the shop, and what convinced you the flower business could be profitable?

A: My parents purchased Hillcrest Floral in 1974. I was working in construction in Rock Springs, Wyo. at the time. When that job ended, it seemed natural to use my business education from Boise State to step into the family business when my parents were ready for a new life adventure.

Q: Where do your flowers come from, and how do they get to you?

A: Probably 80 percent of our flowers are shipped from South America. They are flown to Miami the same day they are cut. They are flown to a wholesaler and come to our shop in a truck the next day. Most of the rest are grown in the United States, some from local Treasure Valley growers.

Q: In what ways has the florist business changed over the years?

A: Call it the good, the bad and the ugly: technology. In terms of the good, customers now have easy access to view and purchase flowers at their convenience. In the past, they had to come into the store and look through catalogs to view choices. In terms of the bad, not every picture can be guaranteed to be available, everyday and everywhere. As for the ugly, when people order online, we lose the ability to immediately discuss any availability issues and substitution options so we can create a design to meet their vision.

Q: What are your best-sellers?

A: Vibrant colors are still in demand. Hot pink, greens and orange colors have remained popular over the last couple of years — gerbera daisies, tulips, mustumoto asters.

Q: What industry fads have you seen come and go over the years?

A: The most exciting part of the industry over the years has been increased variety and availability. In the ’70s and ’80s, your staples were carnations, chrysanthemums, gladoilus — flowers with a long shelf life. But as the world seems to have become smaller, we have new markets to tap. Growers are getting creative in producing new flower colors and varieties.

Q: How has the profitability of the shop changed?

A: Over the years I have watched the financial market and money trends to adjust my approach to planning, buying and staffing for each season. With careful planning, the shop has been able to weather the economic storms.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

A: I love watching my employees take someone’s vision and turn it into a reality. Our eight designers are meeting with brides, with people who lost loved ones, or a guy who wants to make an engagement. It’s about compassion. My employees want to be part of that and make it a good occasion.

Q: What’s the least fun part of your job?

A: Flowers are perishable. Everything needs to be done in a timely manner, so high-volume holidays mean long hours for my employees and less holiday time with their families. But my employees are troupers, and they understand this is part of the business.

Q: You’ve been running the business for a long time. How long do you plan to keep at it?

A: Some of my employees have been with me for 13, 24 and over 30 years. They have become family. I’m planning to be around for the family for a long time.

Zach Kyle: 377-6464