It can be intimidating, taking over a business that’s been in the community since Roosevelt was president. That’s Theodore, not Franklin.
Luckily when the Kimball family bought Moates Florist in 1997, certain things did not change. Like the employees. “We were so fortunate to keep the staff that was here,” co-owner Greg Kimball said of a workforce that still includes 42-year veteran Barbara Reagan.
“At first we didn’t realize that (Reagan) is Moates Florist personified. But my parents really took the attitude of, 'Hey, what can we do to help you keep doing what you’ve been doing?'”
But Kimball also added new ideas to the 110-year-old business. Like dressing his delivery people in tuxedos. “It makes it more of an experience,” said Kimball, “that whole image of receiving the flowers at work, where the other girls see it.”
That practice ties in with a core lesson Kimball says he’s learned during his family’s relatively brief stewardship of the business: “It’s more of a service business than a retail shop. People can buy flowers anywhere, but what they rely on is service.”
5034 N Florida Ave.
Owners: Greg Kimball and his mother, Jo Kimball.
Older than the Columbia Restaurant: Moates first opened for business in 1901, four years before the perennial Ybor eatery.
Long run, low miles: The shop has been at its current location since the 1950s. Before that it was on nearby Lake Avenue. The Kimballs are Moates’ third owners.
Flowers for the famous: Moates is the official florist for the Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Pete Times Forum. Their arrangements adorn the dressing rooms of the Forum’s visiting performers. “We did roses for Barry Manilow when he was in town,” said Kimball. Moates also delivered arrangements shaped like a guitar and hot air balloon for Air Supply.
Flowers for any occasion: Moates floral arranger Dennis Carr specializes in creating unique arrangements for special occasions, such as the bouquets he shaped like police badges for the memorial services of slain Tampa Police detectives Ricky Childers and Randy Bell.
Buy (South) American: 90 percent of American florists’ stock is grown in Colombia and Ecuador, Kimball said. American growers, he said, “Just can’t produce the type and quality of flowers that florists require.” Several factors that give those countries horticultural advantages over American growers include climate, soil, rainfall, and “even how the mists come down off the mountains,” said Kimball.
Recession hurts florists too: Funerals are a major source of business for florists, Kimball said. And in these tough economic times, he said more people are opting for cremation services rather than more expensive traditional burials. So no casket means “Less flowers,” according to Kimball. He said Moates has adapted by creating “smaller, more intricate pieces to go with the urn.”
Hours: Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 8 am. to noon, Sunday closed.