PARMA - There is nothing quite like a flower. I have given them for special days in the lives of many around me. So when I visited Cleveland Plant & Flower Co. in Parma, it was as if I was in a meadow. The only difference was the flowers were from every part of the world.
I was impressed that most of the flowers I have bought over the generations or received from others probably came through the company distribution center in the Cleveland suburb. CP&F receives flowers and plants from throughout the world.
"We get them from Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand," said Kevin Priest, owner and president. "And we get them from all over Canada," he added.
The company is a wholesaler which sells flowers to florists, supermarkets, and many other retailers which send flowers by the bunches. Walking through the Parma facility, which is one of eleven throughout Ohio, Priest understands every facet of the floral business.
"These are orders that are staged and ready to go," said Priest. "They should be out of here later this afternoon," he added.
Time is of the essence in the wholesale floral business. No one wants to buy flowers which are before their time or after their time of beauty. Priest knows the business top to bottom. He represents the fourth generation of his family to run the company, which was begun in 1913 by his great grandfather.
Priest began working in the company at the age of 14. "I began by sweeping the floor," he said, remembering how his father wanted him to learn every aspect of the business.
Cleveland Plant & Flower began at the site of the present-day Progressive Field baseball stadium and Quicken Loans Arena. In 1913, on that plot of land in downtown Cleveland was the Central Market. Growers brought in their flowers and from there, retailers walked through and selected what they needed for customers.
Much has changed in distributing flowers, but the essence of the business is much the same. However, the pace has quickened because flowers come to the company from throughout the world. "You're mostly looking for quality because you're dealing with perishables that are shipped sometimes half way around the world," said Bob "Mo" Moser, an employee.
Through its computer system, the company knows where there are flowers available for purchase and when they are due to arrive in Cleveland or any of the other distribution centers
Anyone who has ever bought or received flowers in Ohio probably dealt with plants that came through the company's system. Many millions of stems of flowers pour through the company. They do not stay long because the plants must be moved along quickly. "We average less than two days in our facility," said Priest. The flowers which are there in the cooler will not be there the next day - they are bound for customers.
Priest speaks of flowers as representing emotions. "Whether it is happiness, or grief, or celebrations, or families being together," he said.
For 100 years, there have been many emotions felt as flowers have been given from one to another. Priest smiled at that thought. He said sometimes he takes flowers home to his wife. "I guess I have my own rose garden," he said.