Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Out and About: Observations

A few weeks ago, I was in San Francisco where Ocean View Flowers was featured at a Safeway Grand Re-opening of their Market Street store.  I was impressed with the fact that Safeway was letting a flower brand be featured.  I also loved the promotion of the California Grower. 

It is amazing where some of the best flowers come from.  A week back, I went to visit one of our hydrangea growers to see where her beautiful hydrangeas are grown.  We can’t tell you the location, but it is an amazing crop of hydrangeas that are grown under a canopy of oak trees.  I wouldn’t call it high tech, but I would put these against any other producer.

Something that blew my mind while I was out and about was the new American Girl Doll Store at the Stanford Shopping Center.  Stanford Shopping Center probably has some of the most expensive mall space in the USA.  When I first saw the store going up I thought, “This is crazy, how can they afford a 2-story 10,000 sq ft. store for dolls?” As you can see in the picture, I apparently don’t know what is popular.   We need to understand how to get more American Girls crazy about flowers along with their dolls.

Everyone in the flower business gets up early.  Whether you are going to the flower market, opening your store for business or in my case heading for the farm, a nice sunrise helps start the day.  

This is a common morning at the entrance to KB.  


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

KB Blog: Wine and Roses

Wine and Roses: Benefit for the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust (
A week ago, Kitayama Brothers sponsored a table for the Wine and Roses - 30th anniversary charity event.  10 KB staff and guests were able to spend a few hours at the Santa Cruz fairgrounds sampling the local wine and food of Santa Cruz County.  We enjoy eating and drinking while feeling good about ourselves.  Just about everyone I know in Watsonville comes to Wine and Roses.  

Here's a picture of Joe and Jim with Scott.  Joe worked with me at Cal Pacific Flowers 20 years ago, and now he sells flowers for himself.  Jim was Ryder Flowers; they had very interesting, novelty flowers.  I wish he still grew flowers locally. 

We see Natal with his Natal Port. KB sales manager Tony Scalisi goes a long way back with Natal.  He is a customer and supplier.  His port is sweet, but I like it.

It is nice to see KB Mass Market Manager Karen Nakamura, Grower Jimmy Zheng and HR Manager Maria Ledesma get out together.  I enjoy working, eating and drinking with them.


Once upon a time, Watsonville, CA was the top rose growing area in the USA; Kitayama Brothers was the largest grower.  Today there is one rose grower left in Watsonville, Pajarosa who grows beautiful roses.  

Pajarosa Roses Here is a display of their roses. 

Roses area my favorite flower.  I have flirted with peonies, iris, lilies, gardenias, lisianthus, gerberas, etc., but carnations and roses defined Kitayama Brothers. Roses are the Queen of Flowers.   

I predict before I leave Kitayama Brothers, we will grow roses again.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Land of Enchantment

Albuquerque, New Mexico
If you follow my blog, you know I was in Amarillo last week.  After leaving Texas, I drove 4 hours to Albuquerque - where I was fortunate enough to celebrate Greenleaf Albuquerque manager, Sandra Valdez’s 25th anniversary with Greenleaf.  

I also got a chance to experience the Land of Enchantment.   

The last time I was in Albuquerque I was 14.  I spent the summer with Tim Matsuno, who convinced my father, Ray Kitayama to open a chain of retail flower shops in Albuquerque.  This was 1974, I give Tim a lot of credit for thinking “out of the box.”  Felicity Flowers was ahead of its time and even though it did not succeed, it evolved into Greenleaf Albuquerque.  

Over the years, we have had many excellent managers in Albuquerque.  The current manager Sandra Valdez started 25 years ago as a driver and worked her way to the top which makes it especially nice to recognize her.   An extra treat for me was seeing one of my favorite Greenleaf people, Mary McEntee.  Mary retired a few years back, still pretty in pink and funny as ever.  Thank you Sandra for the hospitality and letting me spend time in your store. 

Albuquerque Florist 
Albuquerque Florist has been a great customer of Kitayama Brothers since our merger with GE Moore.  I met with Brennen Rigler who is the managing owner.   A short lunch turned into a great 2 hour conversation about the flower business.  Brennen knows there are a ton of challenges in the business but he is so positive he has opened a brand new 8,000 sq. ft. store.  We respect that spirit and wish Albuquerque Florist all the best with the new location.

Tent Rock and Santa Fe
Part of my trip to New Mexico was to visit my friends Judith and Emile.  Ex-New Yorkers who wanted wide open vistas and rainbow sherbet sunsets.  We hiked in Tent Rock which is on the Kochiti Pueblo.  It was a spectacular hike through a slot canyon ringed by the tent rocks.  On the way back we came across a Native American flute player who completed the whole sensory experience with haunting notes to match the landscape.  This is an old land with old traditions.  We ended the day in a Santa Fe hot springs.