Montclair Flowers and Gifts is built on a family feeling
Since 1972, Montclair Flowers and Gifts have served their customers in the South End and beyond. Now the family-owned business is gearing up to provide flowers to mother’s across Montclair with a special sale for Mother’s Day.
For $35, customers can get a wrapped bouquet of flowers and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Friends of the Howe House.
Initiatives like this mean a lot to Chad Smith, the owner of Montclair Flowers and Gifts, who took the shop over from his father in 2018. Smith’s father, John Smith, was an active community member who helped other businesses get their start.
“He was a good man,” Chad Smith said of his father. “He had a heart of gold and he would just help anybody that needed it.”
Chad Smith was born and raised in Montclair and grew up surrounded by an array of daisies, roses and tulips as he spent time in his father’s shop. However, Smith initially had no interest in entering the floral industry.
“Being a florist was not my first love,” Smith said. He wanted to be an accountant until he took his first accounting class and swiftly decided to major in retail management.
He worked multiple positions in retail management for years before deciding to try his hand at being a small business owner and work with his father.
His father, John Smith, made his son work from the ground up. Smith sweeped cut stems and loose petals off the floor, drove the delivery truck and handled small floral arrangements before he was able to try his hand at bigger events, like weddings. Now as he successfully runs the business, he thanks his background in retail management.
“Retail is not the most glamorous job out there, but retail gets you in front of a public,” he said. “Retail teaches you how to talk. Retail gives you the confidence to discuss a customer's concern.”
All these skills were transferable to the floral industry as Smith had to adjust to the limits that the pandemic put on businesses. He was able to guarantee the same quality of flowers that customers have been receiving since 1972 by completely moving the store’s inventory online for customers to shop.
Though they serve a large community, Montclair Flowers and Gifts keeps a small team. Smith’s sister, Judi Gordon, works at the shop with her brother and prior to that worked with her father for 25 years. Before retiring, she was the floral manager at ShopRite. Surprisingly, Gordon’s favorite part of the floral industry isn’t the flowers, but her customers.
“I love talking to the customers and finding out what we can do to make them happy,” she said. Providing floral arrangements for families isn't always for a joyful occasion, like a birthday or holiday. The job comes with heavy emotions at times for people like Gordon who just finished assisting a family with floral arrangements for their mother’s funeral.
“I get chills and I cry with the customers,” she said. “If one of them started crying it would’ve been on! It's not all happy, it's not.”
In moments of need when customers are looking for a little compassion to get them through their hard times, Gordon always assures them saying, “We got you!”
She added: “The one thing that I always tell everybody that asks me why we got into this is because of our customers. We love our customers. We treat our customers like family because we have a family background.”
The staff at Montclair Flowers and Gifts operate like a family unit even though they all aren’t biologically related. John Dey, started working for the business in 2021. He was always an artistic person but it wasn’t until he met his girlfriend at the time, who also owned a flower shop, that he started to show an interest in the floral industry.
“I love the colors, art and designing,” Dey said. “And since I had my shop, there are so many varieties of flowers.”
Dey used to own a flower shop on Grove Street called Grove Plaza Florist and though his shop closed, his love for flowers never dwindled. He is passionate about the arrangements he presents to customers, he can tell a customer which colors, flowers and foliage would look good in a room just by looking at the color scheme. He describes his arrangement process like a math formula or a science experiment, he immediately rules out what colors don’t look good in a floral arrangement and builds from there.
Smith, Gordon and Dey alongside various family members that help from time to time make up the core of Montclair Flowers and Gifts.
“We do have a good footing here in the South End of Montclair and we want people to come down to the South End of Montclair,” Smith said.