Poulsbo Flower Shoppe: Where customer service rules

Tami Mathison combines a cool head for business with a warm heart for Poulsbo, where she and her husband Terry have lived all of their lives. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Tami Mathison combines a cool head for business with a warm heart for Poulsbo, where she and her husband Terry have lived all of their lives.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Just as no two flowers are alike, neither are two customers seeking flowers for a special occasion.

It’s this premise that spurs on Tami Mathisen, owner of the Poulsbo Flower Shoppe: customers’ needs always come first and each customer’s needs are unique.

Using Poulsbo’s first-ever flower shop as a model, Mathisen set about recreating the sense of old-fashioned customer service. Though she never saw the inside of the shop herself — the shop closed down before she was born in the 1960s — she found herself enraptured by stories passed down through the generations.

“There was just this sense of great personalized service, and that’s what I wanted to create,” Mathisen said.

Mathisen opened the flower shop just eight months ago when many retail shops, not just florists, were closing their doors in Poulsbo. She wasn’t discouraged because she had an impressive track record of running other small businesses with her husband, Terry. Now she’s betting she’ll be here for a while.

“Nothing scares me, so I just went online and learned about the florist business,” she said. “Every business has a certain bottom-line financial structure. I learned it and then decided what would work best for our shop.”

An entrepreneur with a sense of adventure, Mathisen started the business from scratch.

For florist shops, the most important elements are keeping costs down and giving customers a level of service they don’t expect, she said.

Controlling costs came first. With the economy soured and small retailers failing, she found a good location and bargained the rent down. She also found a shop across the Sound that was closing and promptly bought its stock and fixtures. Six 26-foot-long moving trucks were needed to bring the haul to Poulsbo, but it gave her all the coolers, containers and plants she needed to get started. Fortunately she also had storage space for the rest.

Employee costs can run high for florists, but Mathisen has just one daily designer and keeps four freelance designers on call. The day designer is the most diverse, she said, but the others have special talents.

“I match the designer to the kind of work that’s required and it gives customers more than they usually expect,” she said. Although the shop specializes in roses, one designer focuses on Asian arrangements, while another has extensive experience in high-end weddings. Mathisen wants them concentrate on what they do best, and hires others to do manual tasks.

Because of fees and other restrictions, Poulsbo Flower Shoppe is not affiliated with a teleflorist service, but she has also worked hard to delight the out-of-town customers who call.

“It means they appreciate the benefit of working with an independent shop, so I go out of my way to create a good relationship with them and provide a unique arrangement,” she said. Typically she will even photograph the display and email it to the customer to be sure they are happy with it.

Because Mathisen is hard-nosed about costs, she also found creative ways to get word of the shop out to the public.

Every week she donates arrangements to Martha and Mary for the front desk, to the fire station, and to the parks and recreation office. She has also donated flowers to a variety of causes, and during the recent spate of bank robberies, she sent flowers to each of the tellers that had been affected.

One of her most successful marketing efforts is a “Random Act of Flowers,” which is an arrangement she will give away at most unlikely spots such as parking lots, in line at the bank or elsewhere around Poulsbo.

The reason people buy flowers is to have a moment of happiness, Mathisen said, and giving away a few random moments of happiness is good for both the community and the business.

“But my husband says the flower shop just gives a mask of legitimacy to my urge to give things away,” she said.

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