One of the leading cut flower growers, shipper and wholesaler in the United States is Mellano and Company and we are excited to introduce them to our floral audience. Mellano actually had a humble and modest beginning nearly 100 years ago. Giovanni Mellano set up shop in 1925, as a wholesale distributor in Los Angeles, California. He soon expanded his business by purchasing six acres in the Los Angeles area and he began growing his own flowers. Mellano and Company has been plowing ahead in floriculture ever since then.
Mellano and Company is headquartered in its Los Angeles Flower Market location where Giovanni first began. The growing operation was relocated in 1970 to sunny San Diego County in the San Luis Rey Valley. Today the farm is the heart of the operation, farming on over 375 acres under the watchful eyes of Giovanni’s children and grandchildren.
Now in its third generation, Mellano and Company has redefined its concept of family to include both employees and customers. This “extended family” has played a major role in Mellano and Company’s success story as they continue to expand not only in their Los Angeles wholesale location, but also locations in Carlsbad and Las Vegas, NV. “A big reason for our success is that we are well diversified,” Giovanni’s grandson Bob Mellano says. His brothers Mike and Jim agree. “We strive to stay technologically advanced, vertically integrated and not afraid to make a crop-mix change. All of this adds to our success and the success of our customers.” We love their technological approach-- and are excited to feature them.
When we caught up with Bruce Brady, VP of Sales and Marketing, he is in his 8th year with Mellano. As an integral member of the Mellano team, Bruce brought his experience from his time with the California Cut Flower Commission to head up Mellano's mass market presence. Bruce brought his expertise in this part of the industry to begin a bouquet department... and they have since re-branded the company to expand their focus under Bruce's direction.
You have farms in the desert, how is this possible?
Looking at the vastness of these locations it was mentioned that a great book to read is a fascinating journey through the 1920's with William Mullholland. Los Angeles was a desert and this story reveals the foresight and engineering feat of Mr. Mullholland to fund and build a huge aqueduct which would allow access to water in the desert. Certainly one of the giants of the industry which led to the ability to farm and grow in population. That's about the same time that our founder began growing flowers, and without these resources, our business wouldn't exist.
What keeps us in business is that we have to be very smart about how we farm. Wells are extremely important to us - to stay in business as a farmer in California it's very difficult. We have a lot of smart people in our company and success is dependent on how wise we are in our operations - this has kept us growing. Giovanni Mellano was bought out twice but with determination and the benefits of farming he was able to establish his wealth in land. We've had big discussions on a more accessible cash crop other than flowers - but we've determined we are an industry leader and produce the most beautiful blooms. Flowers are here to stay.
How do you go above and beyond for your customers?
It all starts in the field and that's dependent upon who we're servicing! When we're talking farm product - it is good quality. But it's also finding and establishing the suppliers who go above and beyond on the sourcing side too. It's how we take care of our customers, so we do a lot of pre-planning; finding out what our customers need and bringing it to them. A lot of florists don't realize what is the best product to offer or what is in season. All of that knowledge is what we are bringing to the customer. We desire the best for our customers and do go above and beyond to provide this product to them.
What are your best communication methods?
We provide a bi-weekly price list with our availability. Our assigned sales reps are communicating and representing product, assisting our customers with our best on a daily basis. The Details platform offers a unique way to communicate with our florists on what their needs are and allows us to find a way to meet them-- and we like to be at the head of innovation. To see everything from last minute to weeks or months in advance is revolutionary. With Details, this will help give us ample time to get ahead of production cycles and have orders in, which is greatly helpful in our pre-planning. Details also allows more time which produces a higher probability of the order being fulfilled. If our florists better understand the probability of getting fresher product for less money, then we can usually negotiate a better deal overall. This tends to allow less of taking whatever you can get on the supply side and allows the customer to get more what they want. Advanced notice for the needs of the florist are better for everyone-- from the farm to retailer to consumer.
How far do you service?
We ship all over the country via Fed Ex. We even ship out of the country for events. We also have our distribution facility in Southern California. We find ourselves all over the place helping a variety of business owners. Being a shipper as well as a grower gives us a unique perspective.
What days do you deliver to your local clients?
At the farm level- we have trucks from Armelllini, Florida Beauty, & Prime coming to our docks daily to pick up our shipments which travel throughout the country. With our distribution business, we run trucks Monday thru Saturday to our florists... and on Sunday we're receiving airfreight and receiving trucks from our growers too. Our distribution is working pretty much 7 days a week. There is a whole industry at work to get our customers orders filled. What florists need most are suppliers that are reliable and at Mellano, we provide that. Our job is to find the most economical and quality path to help our florists get the product they desire. This expertise is helping our florists increase their bottom lines and helping them to stay in business. We have hundreds of people involved in this process, from growing to distributing to flying... it's a huge industry effort all the time... every single day. We know how to properly execute all of their needs thru vast flower channels of distribution. We help to make our florists look like flower "Rock Stars!"
What do you do in the case of an emergency?
Scramble. That's what we do. One of the things we've been doing for 90 years is problem solving. We have to figure out how to get that product from point A to point B; Being an expert problem solver so that we do not let our customers down. That is a BIG part of this business that we do-- DAMAGE CONTROL. We want to make it look seamless- but it's not. Our job is to make it problem-free. On any given week, we are sourcing product from Africa, Ethiopia, Thailand, Chile, Alaska, and Canada-- it's an international web of sourcing that we can go to to come up with something to get the job done.
What do you like LEAST about your florists?
Let's be honest, the last minute unrealistic demands that they have sold things that aren't even in the ground at that time are tough. Unrealistic expectations that can't be met-- by any supplier. It's a lot of last minute pieces often. Every day that gets closer to the day the product is needed, is one less day that we CAN solve the problem and meet the demand.
What do you like BEST about your florists?
We love it when our florists have successful events and they are happy-- and their customers are happy. That's the only reason to be in this business. When an event goes well, and the joy is in place all-around, that is really satisfying for the florist, but also for us, as the supplier.
Do you offer any educational opportunities to enhance your florists' business?
We do! We do on site events often. We host Flower "Schools" that are run out of our wholesale facility from time to time. We also have a new video series that we will be rolling out that helps florists get back to the basics. There are a lot of new people in the business that do not know what we know, so we do our best to teach them these tips, in addition to being a great source. We've compiled a lot of industry knowledge in our 100 year of business-- even outside of our geographic footprint-- and we enjoy sharing it with our customers.
How are you hoping Details Flowers Software will help your customers?
Our hope is that Details will offer a more streamlined approach for florists to be able to do business with us. Reality is- we all buy online. If our florists can save time and be more efficient with their processes, we can see a long term relationship with Details Flowers Software and our customers.
Do you have any tips for new florists getting started in the business?
"Mommas don't let your babies go into the floral industry!" Lol. In all seriousness, be as good at the business side of floristry, as you are at the design side. It always seems like there are a lot of talented designers, but not as talented as business owners. We all want long term success-- and to get there you must have solid fundamental business practices. For example, there are florists that come to our market everyday to pick their flowers. They sometimes drive 2 hours, spend 2 hours shopping-- and then complain about delivery charges when they have to have things delivered. There are a lot of people that do things that are not rational and could save hundreds of dollars each week by letting their sales reps select blooms for them instead of making the trek. The way we see it, they could be selling to new clients and generating more revenue, instead of driving at great lengths to pick products. The hard part is selling the events-- and we'd love for them to focus on growing that part of their business, and let us do the procurement part.
How do you deal with waste at the Wholesale/Grower Level?
Unfortunately, the dumpster pays nothing. Pre-ordering helps us, and there is very little product risk. The reality is we have to raise the price if stuff goes in the dumpsters, so if it comes in, it goes out, EVERYBODY WINS. Preordering will get you the freshest product at lowest costs. I can only bring in what I'm confident I can sell it. Options are endless if you have a bit of time on your side
Thank you Bruce for helping us get to know you better. To close, we love to hear that each year, Mellano & Company participates in providing flowers for notable events including the Rose Parade, the Emmy's, and the Conservatory in Las Vegas. Mellano is a special events machine helping thousands of florists on their event. And Bruce states, "We enjoy helping our event florists, and love to see their work receive the accolades it deserves." We couldn't agree more.
To learn more about Details Flowers and adding Mellano as a preferred supplier, sign up for a free trial or schedule an appointment with a Details sales representative today!
Mellano and Company prides itself on its progressive ideas, many of which have been developed into industry-wide improvements in growing and logistics. Innovations that have developed over the years include:
- Comprehensive cold chain management (the ultimate means used to provide a constant temperature for a products that is not heat stable).
- Irrigation systems to minimize runoff and water flow.
- Pre-cooling systems to allowing flowers to be shipped at optimal freshness.
- Developed use of smaller boxes for packaging flowers, resulting in improved quality control and handling.
To learn more about Mellano & CO, please visit their website at www.mellano.com!