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store profile
Service has its rewards

Scolari’s Food & Drug grows its floral operation thanks to a full range of services.

    by Cynthia L. McGowan

Customer service is an important value at Scolari’s Food & Drug Company, a family-owned 18-store chain based in Sparks, Nev. The floral operation embodies that value with full-service departments, talented designers and the ability to handle asll needs from custom designs to weddings.

“The culture of the store is full-service commitment to customers,” confirms Paul Dziedzic, director of produce and floral. “Pleasing and leaving customers satisfied—it’s all based on service and quality.”

Toward that goal, most stores have delis with meal options for customers to grab and go; pharmacies; and full-service meat, seafood and bakery departments. The company also gives back to the community through its “Friendship Fund,” which has contributed more than $4.5 million to local nonprofit organizations.

The example for customer relations is set at the top by the owners, brothers Joey and Jerry Scolari, Mr. Dziedzic reports. “They’re always in the stores, seeing customers, shaking hands and extending themselves,” he remarks.

doing everything in floral

Twelve Scolari’s stores have full-service departments, “meaning they do everything in floral, including delivery, designing and you name it,” Mr. Dziedzic explains. The other six are in areas that won’t support full service, but they have cash-and-carry offerings. “They do extremely well with floral, too,” he emphasizes, “but we just have a different approach.”

The full-service departments average 600 to 1,000 square feet in size and attract customers’ attention with colorful flowers and plants attractively displayed on wood and metal shelving and in floral coolers. Fresh products take center stage, with the departments offering complementary items including balloons, greeting cards and vases.

Customers often ask to have designs made while they shop, sometimes bringing in their own containers for the designers to use, Mr. Dziedzic says. “We get some pretty interesting things coming in,” he remarks—sometimes even cowboy boots.

The designers also receive a substantial number of orders for flowers for people participating in local events such as rib cook-offs, balloon races and so on, Mr. Dziedzic shares. “Especially when we get into the nicer weather times of the year, there’s a huge event up here almost every weekend,” he explains. “You’d be surprised how many people take advantage of bringing flowers to that event for somebody involved.”

In addition to that daily business, the company handles sympathy work, events and weddings. In 2004, Scolari’s entered the wedding business, and it has been a profitable and growing area since. (Read more in “A Growing Business in Weddings,” Page 24.)

  scolari's food & drug company  

Headquarters Sparks, Nev.
OWNERS Brothers Joey and Jerry Scolari
STORES 18 in Nevada and California, under the Scolari's Food & Drug and Sak 'N Save banners
SALES $250 million in fiscal year 2010, according to the Directory of Supermarket, Grocery & Convenience Store Chains
STORE SIZE Averages 45,000 square feet
FLORAL DEPARTMENT SIZE Averages 600 to 1,000 square feet
FLORAL EMPLOYEES About 20 people for the 12 full-service departments; the company also uses labor from an employment service during busy times
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service florals including custom designs, weddings, sympathy, delivery, and Teleflora and flowers-by-wire services


labor efficiency

Mr. Dziedzic has developed an efficient system to ensure the stores have enough labor to meet customers’ floral needs. Each department has one full-time florist. In addition, the company has a pool of about eight floral “floaters” who are available to go wherever and whenever they are needed. “They help cover days off, vacations or major events,” Mr. Dziedzic elaborates.

The company has discovered that Sundays are a slow day in the floral departments, so just one department stays open on Sunday, serving as a centralized shop and handling orders from Scolari’s two wire services, Teleflora and If the load gets heavy on a Sunday, Mr. Dziedzic can send a floater to help.

He also hires temporary workers from an employment service during busy holidays including Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. The temporary employees have a background in floral, and Mr. Dziedzic often is able to hire the same ones year after year. In some cases, he has hired them permanently after being able to see their quality of work on the job. “It works really well,” he remarks. “It’s been a good thing for us.”

rise in delivery orders

Floral delivery also is an area that requires efficient coordination. Mr. Dziedzic reports an upswing in the number of deliveries, especially in the past six months. He attributes that, in part, to fewer floral shops in the area offering the service and the fact that Scolari’s can take care of a delivery order quickly and to any part of town.

Scolari’s doesn’t charge an outright delivery fee, instead building it into the cost of the labor and materials. “We think [delivery’s] a great way to keep our community and our florists locked into each other,” he describes.

The number of deliveries varies greatly, from 25 to 175 in a week, and many more on holidays. The floral employees make most of the deliveries themselves using a dedicated van, but that isn’t always possible. “If they’re really busy, we also have a secondary company that handles our overflow,” Mr. Dziedzic explains.

floral publicity

Scolari’s uses several venues to make sure that customers know about its floral services. It has upgraded its website to show photos of everyday and wedding designs, and Mr. Dziedzic says that has been a helpful sales tool. “A lot of customers are going on our website and then e-mailing our stores back and saying, ‘We want this one, and we’ll be there on Saturday to pick it up,’” he explains.

The next step for the website will be online ordering. “We’re moving in that direction,” he remarks.

The company also spotlights three floral items in its weekly newspaper advertisements and sometimes includes information about wedding services. In addition, the florists distribute business cards when they do event work. “I like them to drive their own business,” Mr. Dziedzic says. “They’re constantly doing that.”

favorite products

Cut flowers, in stems, bunches and bouquets, are the best-selling floral items. Mr. Dziedzic buys most of Scolari’s cut flowers from distributor Nor-Cal Produce and Floral and wholesaler Fresh Ideas, both based in California, and the stores receive shipments as many as four times a week.

Ready-made bouquets range in price from $7.99 to $19.99, with the $7.99 to $9.99 price points selling best. Mr. Dziedzic calls the bouquets in those price points fairly large and “something that’s impressive to give.”

Prices for consumer bunches are four for $12 or three for $10, and they usually have six to eight stems in them. Favorite flowers include roses, Hydrangeas, sunflowers, Alstroemerias, spray mums and Gerberas.

Single stems often sell for 99 cents, with roses and Gerberas leading in popularity. A high-quality 60-centimeter rose sells for as much as $5.99 a stem. “They’re stunning,” Mr. Dziedzic reports.

The florists are required to keep their coolers fully stocked at all times with seven to 10 arrangements. If a florist is busy and having trouble keeping the cooler full, a floater will be sent to help, Mr. Dziedzic says. Prices for arrangements can go as high as $100, but in general, the stores keep designs in price points from $9.99 to $49.99 for customers to grab and go.

For plant sales, “we try to do big signature events,” Mr. Dziedzic shares, by offering seasonal items like poinsettias or unique plant types in a big way. That strategy lets Scolari’s offer lower prices to customers, he says. Plants start at $4.99 for 6-inch pots and go up to $19.99 for orchids and bromeliads.

“We tend to do pretty well” in outdoor sales, Mr. Dziedzic shares. The season is from April to July, and azaleas and rose trees, at $9.99, are signature items.

Christmas trees offer big sales for the floral departments, too. “We sold 700-plus trees in the Santa Barbara [California] store alone,” Mr. Dziedzic says of Christmas 2010. Scolari’s procures the trees from a grower in Oregon, “and they were the most beautiful trees that I’ve ever been around,” he recalls. They sold for $24.99, lower than most competitors’ prices, and the quality and price were a winning combination. “We were sold out of our trees almost completely the week before the final week [of sales] even started,” Mr. Dziedzic remarks.

cooperative effort

To encourage the staff’s salesmanship and creativity, Mr. Dziedzic sends out weekly e-mails with information on merchandising, products in the department and sales goals. In the e-mails, “I spend a lot of time thanking them and putting little notes about successes and failures, just things that they can enjoy reading and pat themselves on the back because there’s not enough of that out there most of time,” he shares.

Scolari’s also turns to vendors for help with training, particularly Debbie Cederlof, floral director at Nor-Cal Produce and Floral. She works with the florists on in-store merchandising, giving Mr. Dziedzic more time for his other director duties.

Mr. Dziedzic credits the well-trained, creative staff and can-do willingness to serve customers for helping to build an operation that stands out from the competition and contributes 2 percent toward total company sales. “They always are so dynamic and so artistic,” he shares. “It never ceases to amaze me what they can do.”

keys to success

SERVICE The florists at Scolari’s Food & Drug Company offer a full range of floral services from custom designs to weddings.
MERCHANDISING The floral departments brim with colorful flowers and plants, enticingly displayed to catch customers’ attention.
GETTING THE WORD OUT Scolari’s publicizes its florals on its website (right), through newspaper ads, with business cards and through satisfied customers’ positive word-of-mouth.

a growing business in weddings

Since Scolari’s Food & Drug Company started handling weddings in 2004, it has generated about $500,000 in nuptial business, reports Paul Dziedzic, director of produce and floral. “It seems to build each year,” he says.

The company’s 12 full-service floral departments handle all sizes of weddings, from small affairs, for which the couples pick up their wedding flowers, to complete set-up. “We do just about anything we get asked to do,” Mr. Dziedzic shares.

Scolari’s publicizes its nuptial business at a large wedding fair every year in Reno, Nev., exhibiting with the company’s catering and bakery departments. Mr. Dziedzic says the fair offers two benefits: It lets brides see what Scolari’s can do, and the company receives a list of all attendees, so the florists can contact them for business later.

The florists book consultations in advance and conduct them right in the floral departments. They usually take about two hours, and the florists show the brides work they have done as well as books of inspiration. The florists often give a quote on the spot and ask for about a 5 percent down payment to reserve the date. Closer to the date, the brides pay 50 percent, and the rest is paid at the end of the process.

Scolari’s often books destination weddings in Lake Tahoe, Calif., about an hour from the Sparks/Reno area. Those kinds of weddings require more phone communication, but they are a growing area of business. Scolari’s website,, includes information about its wedding work and is an important vehicle for drawing out-of-town brides, Mr. Dziedzic remarks.

The company has one full-time florist in each department, so to handle wedding work, employees from a pool of floaters often are called in to help (learn more about the floating pool on Page 25). Mr. Dziedzic says he looks at the calendar several months in advance to see what weekends might be big ones for wedding work so he can forecast labor needs.

     The biggest key to successful wedding work, Mr. Dziedzic shares, is hiring the right people. The best florists for weddings are the ones who can design and work well with brides, he points out. “Advertising’s huge, the fairs are huge,” he reminds, “but you have to have the right people to start the word-of-mouth going. That’s where we get most of our business—just people that like what we do.”

Reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan at
or (800) 355-8086.