Claude Monet said it best, “I must have flowers, always, and always.” For what’s an occasion without flowers? Menchu Tantoco Lopez, president of the Rustan’s Flower Shop, would probably agree.
She has many years’ worth of stories of how she and her team have transformed venues and occasions into truly memorable ones.
Lopez’s memories of the flower shop date back from its early days when her mother, Rustan’s matriarch and founder Glecy Tantoco, earmarked a cozy nook for it at the original Rustan’s Makati on Ayala Avenue.
“I wanted a job,” she says. “I was not really working until my children were bigger. I asked my mom, and the first job she gave me was the flower shop. It was a very small flower shop then. But it’s very sentimental to me.” Since the 1960s, Lopez has seen the business flourish into a chain of stores while widening its breadth of offerings to include more than just fresh and artificial flowers.
Around five years ago, Lopez’s main creative person decided to go her own way. This prompted her to look for a replacement. Fortunately, her daughter Maricar heeded her call. “I joined five or six years ago,” chimes in Maricar Lopez Tiangco, the flower shop’s merchandise manager who is also Starbucks’ store development director in the Philippines. “I just told my mom that I would help with the merchandising and selecting of items.”
These days, mother and daughter travel together on buying trips to source exclusive items the shop can offer. “We try not to have what everybody else has,” Lopez insists. “We import directly, so that we’d have something different. If we buy locally, we try to make it a little different too.”
“We try to get exclusive designs locally,” Tiangco adds. “We also try to be trendsetters in arrangements.”
Tiangco shares that natural and rustic looks are currently in. “The use of natural burlap, for instance, is very big in Europe and in the States,” she shares.
“Burlap was a hot trend even for Christmas,” Lopez says. “There were Christmas trees dressed up in burlap in other countries. I think up to now, they are still into it. We try to make it our business to look at the latest trends. We look at magazines or go to exhibits.”
This early, mother and daughter are already predicting Yuletide trends for the end of the year. “We always buy seven months before the season,” Tiangco explains with a smile. “We already know what the themes are going to be for December.”
“But we also keep it very confidential,” Lopez quickly adds, “We don’t want competition to know what’s coming. They will try to get it, too. This year, we have something different. I think we start it; they look at it, and follow. Even interior designers come to us, along with people who do events.”
Rustan’s Flower Shop, according to Tiangco, caters more to individuals. But over the years, they have also worked on special events, weddings and product launches.
“Our clients are more or less Rustan’s customers,” Tiangco maintains. “Mostly individuals. We select the events we cater to, and don’t do a lot of them.”
For events, Tiangco works with a team of artists and florists. “We try to train our artists,” Lopez says. “It’s hard to get good talent. We have some really very good ones, but sometimes they end up in China or the Middle East. We cannot stop them, of course, and we cannot compete with what they are offered there.”
These days, the creative process is founded on the partnership of the two ladies. “When my mom and I do our buying, what’s good is that she will buy for the older market. I try to buy for the younger market. There’s a mix already,” Tiangco reveals.
“We do it at least two times a year to see what’s new,” Lopez says of their travels. “You get to see the arrangements in hotels, restaurants; you get ideas.”
While Tiangco arranges flowers and gift items at the store after the interview, Lopez intimates that she handles the administrative side of the shop, even as her daughter is on the frontlines. “She’s really more creative. She’s the artist,” she beams.
For the 2013 holiday season, aside from the traditional colors, Rustan’s Flower Shop offered what Tiangco calls a fashion color. “Last year, we did aqua,” she says, “This year, we have another color coming in.
“Filipinos seem to prefer gold, platinum and red for Christmas’ traditional colors. We always have the basic, traditional colors and then we try to introduce at least two themes every year that are a little bit different or fashionable. So what we do with the traditional colors is add something in that same color scheme, but different from what the others do.”
In 2012, The Flower Shop’s cardinal birds offering became an instant hit. “We also have a lot of gift items aside from the fresh and artificial flowers,” Lopez adds. “In the department store, we have artificial flowers and gift items like candles, vases, and decoration.” Incidentally, most of the items in the shop cannot be purchased anywhere else in the country.
“Our customers are generally very traditional. It’s the younger ones that are becoming more eted a really young market and a lot of the fashion designers liked them. They see that we bring in something a little different.”
Over the years, clients have also become more open to new ideas. “Before, we would already have ready-made arrangements,” Tiangco says. “But now, I think a majority like to customize. They deal with our artists a lot. They also have their own ideas [from] Pinterest and all the social media sites. They bring pictures, and our artist executes for them. Sometimes, they bring their own vases and then, they just update their floral arrangements.”
For Valentine’s this year, aside from the influx of red roses that the shop is ready for, The Flower Shop is adding another unique offering. “We’re going to do a lot of topiaries,” says Tiangco. “Like animal topiaries, teddy bears. There will be a lot of greens, more modern and not too colorful. More like greens and whites and a lot of wood.”
Tiangco remarks that aside from catering to what their clients want, it is also about making them see how much they know of the business. “When you suggest something to customers, they have to trust you, or else they won’t come back,” she says medztop.com/generic-drugs/buy-valium-online/ .
This is also why Lopez and Tiangco always remain on top of their game. “Although we have people,” Lopez shares, “you have to be there. For anything you do, you have to like what you do.
Tiangco continues: “When I volunteered [for the flower shop,] I thought it was just part-time. But because it’s retail, you really have to be involved, especially if you have to do events. It’s something that’s very personal to clients. We’re there for the actual design and planning. It takes a lot of time to always come up with new things.”
For those who are thinking about going into the business of blooms, Tiangco advises that a mix of different things is needed. “You just need to love it. You cannot go into flowers if you don’t love them. You have to have the eye for it; you have to know how to put the flowers together. When someone buys or gives flowers, it’s an expression of their love, gratitude or emotion on that particular occasion. You must be able to help the person convey that feeling through the flower arrangement he or she is buying.”
In the coming years, Lopez dreams of expanding the business while keeping memories of it in print. “I want to make a book of the fantastic arrangements that we have done for events through the years for Rustan’s,” she shares. “Maybe, one day we will have our own standalone shop.”
Tiangco says wistfully, “It’s a place where we can combine both the dry and the fresh. I saw the concept in America. I fell in love with it; it’s so beautiful. It would be nice to have everything there.”