Sales are blossoming at Jacob Maarse thanks to the community
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Photo by Chris Mortenson
Hank Maarse had coolers filled with flowers and greenery when pandemic mandates forced businesses like his, Jacob Maarse Floral Design, to close their doors.
Sticking with his mission to make people happy, he didn’t just toss the blooms in the trash. He put them near the street outside of his Pasadena shop for passersby to pick up.
“We had two coolers of flowers and Easter plants,” he says. “It was disheartening. But I posted on social media that people could pick up the flowers, that they would just be outside.
“It was actually the most fun thing I’ve ever done. It was some point of light in this dark tunnel we were going into, especially in California, where nobody knew what was going to happen. It made people smile a little bit.”
Hank and his family have long been in the business of making people happy.
Jacob Maarse Floral Design was founded by Hank’s parents nearly 60 years ago. Hank’s father, Jacob, came from a long line of growers of lilacs and hydrangeas in Holland.
“When he came here, he kind of gravitated not toward growing but to flowers and started doing more of the retail end,” Hank says.
The colors, the blooms, and the camaraderie with customers rubbed off on Hank, who has been in the business for 34 years.
“It’s challenging, especially now, with all the shipping and supply chain problems,” Hank says.
“I try to source the freshest and most beautiful flowers and plants at the moment. That’s what keeps me on my toes. We grow a fairly decent amount on the West Coast. We support local growers in Oregon, Washington and California.”
Sticking with what’s in season is important to Hank. Flowers are available from around the world year-round, but he sticks with his old school philosophy.
“When tulips are in season, we do that,” he says. “We grow our own garden roses in Sierra Madre. We feature those. When Peonies are in season or lilacs or in season, we feature those. We try to keep it that way instead of having the same flowers year-round. We specialize in what’s season.”
Coming up are California lilacs, which bloom the end of April, beginning of May; tulips; and the ever-popular Valentine’s Day offering, roses.
“A lot of people from the Midwest or East Coast are sentimental about lilacs,” he says. “It reminds them of home, their childhood or grandmother.”
“Tulips are a great value. The roses coming from South America will always be the No. 1 flower for Valentine’s Day.”
For those who want something trendy, Hank suggests succulents, which are called “tenacious plants that store water in their thick leaves and stems.” Orchids are a “nice value,” too, as they are long-lasting.
“If somebody’s looking for something that has a longer life, orchids are great,” he says. “People have been gravitating toward green plants the last two years. I think it’s fun to take care of them.
“They’re challenging. You have to work at it to keep them alive. There are some really cool aralias that come in a stump form that look like bonsai but are not bonsai. They look like they’re 30 years old, but they’re not.”
Ferns are popular as well, and as long as they’re watered regularly, they are hearty and do well inside homes.
“There has been an explosion of interesting indoor green plants in the last two to three years,” Hank adds. “People are exploring different varieties and species that they haven’t explored before.”
Shoppers can do that thanks to Jacob Maarse Floral Design. Hank and his family’s love for Pasadena is rooted in the community’s support of the store.
“Pasadena is a very loyal city,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of repeat customers or parents bringing their kids. It’s just nice. We got through the pandemic, and now we’re looking to the future hoping everything will be OK.”