Skip to main content

An evolving legacy

Green Bay Floral announces shift in focus

share arrow printer bookmark flag

December 16, 2022

GREEN BAY – Many small business owners will tell you – change is inevitable.

Making those changes, however, can be challenging, partly due to the uncertainty that goes with it.

In the same breath, those changes can sometimes mean success, rather than just survival.

Tyler Arkens and his wife Beth, owners of Green Bay Floral, said they have found themselves on a path that has them making some tough changes – which means moving on from its Shawano Avenue brick-and-mortar location.

And though difficult, Arkens said he knows it’s the best for his family, his business and for the community.

“It’s time to accept that rather than just treading water – we need to move forward in a direction that will allow us to carry on Green Bay Floral’s legacy,” he said.

A long history
Green Bay Floral & Greenhouse has been a fixture of west side Green Bay since the 1930s – owned and operated for more than 80 years, most recently (before Arken purchased it) by Jayme and Sheila Kujava.

And though Arken is not a member of the Kujava family by blood, Arken said he has always felt like an honorary member.

“I grew up with the previous owners’ kids,” he said. “So, I grew up two doors down from (them). The one that was my age was Nolan. He and I, from second grade through probably mid-way through high school, were very close – young friends who were always on the same sports teams. I think I probably slept at their house more often than I slept at my own.”

Over the years, Arken said he has always remained connected with the Kujava family, “because of the fact I spent so much time with them.”

Which, Arken said, eventually included being an employee at Green Bay Floral.

// Arkens grew up working at Green Bay Floral. He purchased the business in January 2017. Submitted Photo

“In high school, I did not go to school on Valentine’s Day because I was helping deliver,” he said. “In college, we would come back and deliver. So, I had a very tight relationship with the previous owners and their kids.”

An unplanned journey
Though Green Bay Floral has always held a special place in his heart, Arken said he never really thought about one day purchasing the business.

He attended St. Norbert College in De Pere and earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design – which he said led him down a handful of different paths working for companies in marketing and sales.

When Arken was let go from a company in 2012 due to downsizing – he said he found himself back at Green Bay Floral.
“When I got let go, it was an opportunity for me to stay at home and spend time with my family,” he said. “I then went back to leverage some contacts, and I ended up coming back to Green Bay floral for a nine to 10-month stretch.”

Arken said an opportunity to purchase Green Bay Floral during this time presented itself to him but said “the timing wasn’t right.”

“The financials weren’t adding up – it wasn’t going to be mutually beneficial,” he said. “So, I decided to walk away, and I went back to work for a couple of different companies.”

The opportunity presented itself again in 2016, this time, Arken said “it made sense.”

“The previous owner, in 2016, texted me and mentioned he was seriously considering closing the business if they couldn’t find a buyer by January of 2017,” he said.

Arken said he ignored the message for about two months, “because I had already gone through the process, and I didn’t think I was going to get a different result.”

Green Bay Floral does about 50-60 weddings a year. Tyler Arkens said walking away from the greenhouse side of the business will allow the team to do more. Submitted Photo

“It became evident to me in September I wasn’t meant to be where I was, so my wife and I decided to pursue Green Bay Floral,” he said. “I left my job at the plastics distributor at the end of October 2016, and in less than four months, we put together a deal that was mutually beneficial for both of us. And on Jan. 6, 2017, I wound up buying Green Bay Floral.”

Industry changes
Arkens said floral shops and greenhouses are an “interesting mesh of two completely different businesses.”

“There are greenhouses – like Lindsley’s Greenhouse or Larry’s Bellevue Gardens – that are literally just greenhouses,” he said. “And then there are places that are just flower shops, and places that are just event florists. So that has changed.”

Arken said “way, way back in the day,” even before he got into the business, there were more all-inclusive type garden centers.
“Grow your own products and have a flower shop as well,” he said.

Arkens said not only has the industry itself seen a change but so, too, has competition.

“In my opinion, our competition has changed quite a bit,” he said.

Arkens said his competition, from a garden center standpoint, isn’t Roots on 9th or Larry’s Bellevue Gardens, but rather the Hy-Vee that just went in, or the Home Depot, Meijer or Fleet Farm garden centers.

“And oh, by the way, Meijer sells pre-wrapped flowers and plants, and Hy-Vee has a floral department,” he said.

Arkens said this shift has forced them to change their day-in and day-out business.

“Focusing on fresh truck delivery every day and providing a wonderful service for people in the funeral space, the wedding space, the event and the corporate event space,” he said. “Because those are the places people want to support a small, local, family-owned business, and I can tell you right now, every flower shop in this city is a small, local, family-owned business.”

A new direction
Not only has the change in competition contributed to Arkens’ decision to pivot Green Bay Floral’s focus but so, too, have unforeseen circumstances, such as staffing changes, vital equipment failures, a pandemic, rising product costs, quality and availability issues, as well as higher taxes, gas prices and insurance.

Arkens said the ability to succeed in running Green Bay Floral as it always has been run is no longer viable.

And though he said that was the plan when he bought the business in 2017, things change.

“You have plans and sometimes you get the chair kicked out from underneath you – and that’s just how it works,” he said.

The biggest step in the business’s pivot, Arkens said, is removing itself from the greenhouse aspect of things.

Arkens said they decided that in order to survive long term, Green Bay Floral needed to focus on those services deemed profitable in today’s industry.

Tyler Arkens said the Green Bay Floral team takes the responsibility of “delivering the sentiments of life with the artistry of flowers” very seriously. Submitted Photo

“We can grow some really good products,” he said. “I had no experience growing anything. I was an amateur landscaper, and I learned how to grow thousands of different varieties of plants, and helped create beautiful gardens for people. We can do that. But financially, I don’t see it as viable as providing wedding services, event services, funeral services and day-in and day-out floral delivery.”

Arkens said heating a 20,000-square-foot plastic house, with mounted heaters that are 10 feet in the air next to the plastic roof, coupled with the increased cost of utilities and increased stress on the building – no longer makes sense.

“This is a business decision,” he said.

And though Arkens said it was the right decision, making it was difficult.

“When Jayme, the previous owner stops in and asks how things are going, I get a little sad I couldn’t continue that part of this legacy,” he said. “But in order to keep the overall legacy of Green Bay Floral and the family I grew up with and what I’ve promised to them – to keep that going, we’ve got to evolve.”

Arkens said that evolution has Green Bay Floral adapting in the marketplace and focusing on “what we feel we’re really good at.”

Moving away from the greenhouse responsibilities, he said, will allow the team to focus on other aspects of the business.

“There are flower shops out there that are doing 120-plus weddings every year,” he said. We don’t necessarily have the people power to be doing that many weddings, but we’re still going to pump out 50-60 weddings throughout the year. At some point, we’ll continue to add to our team and grow that space.”

Corporate event work is another aspect Arkens said the business will be able to put a stronger focus on as well.

“We do three to five corporate events a month,” he said. “And funerals, I know not everybody likes to talk about that, but that’s something we do on a daily basis.”

Arkens said one of the things that sets Green Bay Floral apart, and will continue to do so, is its personalized services.

“You’re getting my wife and I for an appointment,” he said. “My wife and I are (putting together) the flowers, and my wife and I are usually the ones delivering it. So, you’re getting a piece of us.”

In reality, Arkens said not much about Green Bay Floral will change, with the exception of the elimination of the greenhouse.

“Truth be told, most of the business that happens in a flower shop – probably above 60% – is going out the back door,” he said. “We’re delivering 20-25 deliveries every day.”

Tyler Arkens said Green Bay Floral customers will continue to get personalized service from him and his wife Beth. Submitted Photo

Focusing more on this aspect of the business, Arkens said Green Bay Floral will be able to take those offerings even further.
“We have this opportunity to wow both the sender and the recipient,” he said.

Arkens, who has given himself the title of “head deliverer of the sentiments of life,” said Green Bay Floral is the go-between.

“When somebody wants to tell somebody, they love them, we’re the go-between,” he said. “We take the responsibility of delivering those sentiments, with the artistry of flowers, which is a huge responsibility. We take it very seriously around here.”

What comes next for Green Bay Floral, Arkens said, is to be determined.

He said the current building and the adjoining property are up for sale “in hopes someone can invest in this space, neighborhood and community that we so loved being a part of.”

Currently, Arkens said those are about as far as his plans go – noting Green Bay Floral is on the search for an alternate location.

“We’re going to have inventory on hand,” he said. “Wherever we go – and I don’t have a crystal ball in front of me – I don’t know where we’re going to go, but we’ll construct a cooler and end up having some sort of space for flowers to exist. Hopefully, we have some sort of retail presence.”

As far as connecting with its customers, Arkens said the Green Bay Floral website will continue to include all the imagery and access to the work it provides.

“The things we have and the work we can do are going to be out there on the internet for everybody to see,” he said.

Regardless of where Green Bay Floral ends up, Arkens said its community connections will continue.

Green Bay Floral offers custom-made floral arrangements. Submitted Photo

“Our biggest non-negotiable over the last five years is to be a good partner,” he said. “We want to try and give our time, talents and treasures out to people in the community through charitable work – whether it’s time, our flowers or whatever, that looks like. We want to continue working with those groups because it fills our cup.”

Arkens said Green Bay Floral’s job is and always has been delivering the sentiments of life.

“We’re working on creating a vision of what it’s going to look like in five, 10, 15 years down the line,” he said. “We know what is not in that vision, so it’s time to make sure we can fulfill the vision of what we want it to be in the future.”

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending