SCHENECTADY — Frank Gallo has always been one step ahead.
The owner of Frank Gallo & Son Florist on State Street in Schenectady first integrated technology shortly after joining his family’s business in 1985.
“We implemented a point-of-sale system that was barely cutting-edge at the time and launched a website as soon as the internet became available to businesses,” he said. “Taking a chance with technology was expensive, but I knew deep down that the cost we were incurring was an investment that would pay off down the road.”
Did it ever.
Around 2010, Frank Gallo & Son, which Gallo’s great-grandparents opened in 1920, saw a shift in how customers were placing orders.
“I looked at the buying habits of consumers and saw that the percentage of in-store sales were diminishing, while telephone and online sales were increasing,” Gallo said. “I realized business was changing.”
From 2010 to 2020, Gallo decided to close six of the seven locations and sold the properties, leaving only the 10,000-square-foot store on State Street in Schenectady.
In January 2020, Gallo made the decision to close the store to traditional retail operations aside from providing curbside pickup.
“The overhead costs of operating stores were unnecessary,” he said. “Incorporating everything under one roof and shutting off retail helped us grow our business by allowing us to focus on the delivery portion, which is the biggest component of the business.”
Having the business already closed off to retail meant Frank Gallo & Son Florist was well equipped to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People were reluctant to go into stores during the pandemic and thankfully we didn’t rely on that type of business,” Gallo said. “Since the pandemic kept loved ones from seeing one another, flowers were a great way for people to connect.”
Elizabeth Daly, marketing and communications manager at the Society of American Florists, said that over the course of the pandemic people fully embraced flowers and found a new appreciation for what they represent.
“With the isolation and separation brought on by COVID-19, people turned to flowers in a big way to say, ‘Wish we were there,’ ‘congratulations’ and so many other reasons — not to mention beautifying their homes,” Daly said. “Since many florists have both brick-and-mortar and online platforms, and the ability to provide same-day delivery, they were well-positioned to meet consumer demand.”
Many floral retailers have spent time modifying their protocols in order to adjust to the “new normal” and increased consumer demand since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Daly said.
“The pandemic forced many businesses to overhaul standard practices, resulting in a more streamlined, profitable business model that will serve them well going forward,” she said.
Meeting the demand
On a daily basis, according to Gallo, there are approximately 10 vehicles on the road delivering floral arrangements as far south as Glenmont and as far north as Glens Falls.
“I wanted to be a regional florist, so by increasing our footprint to the entire Capital Region we were able to increase the volume of our business,” he said. “Most entrepreneurs want to grow their business and for me, whether I was in the flower business or the restaurant business, it was important to work hard and grow the business.”
During holidays such as Easter and Mother’s Day, Gallo said, up to 50 delivery vehicles could be on the road in the Capital Region at one time.
“We had no idea what the demand would be for Mother’s Day 2020, and it turned out to be the biggest Mother’s Day we’ve ever had from a volume standpoint,” he said citing a 60% increase in business. “And Mother’s Day 2021 was just as busy.”
According to the Society of American Florists survey, 85 percent of respondents said Mother’s Day sales continued to grow in 2021 from the previous year.
“Of those who saw a sales increase, about a third said their sales went up between 21% and 50%,” Daly said. “Nearly 75% of respondents cited consumers’ desire to connect through flowers and plants as the reason for their increased sales.”
And once weddings were allowed to resume, Gallo said, the business experienced another increase in orders.
“When restrictions loosened up and couples were able to book their wedding again, our experienced staff was able to meet the rise in demand,” he said. “We took pride in being able to provide our products and services to couples.”
Currently, Gallo is focused on the growth of Frank Gallo & Son Florist and said he’s in talks with an existing florist business in Buffalo that is looking to sell.
“They’re an established shop in Buffalo and that would give us a unique opportunity for growth,” he said. “I’m always looking for unique opportunities to grow, not only here in the Capital Region but in other markets as well.”
Despite current staffing challenges in retail and service industries, Gallo said he’s been fortunate.
“Our business has grown so we’ve been in the position of hiring,” he said. “We’ve been able to obtain and retain staff at a good rate, so we’re in a good spot when it comes to staffing.”
Gallo said he has high hopes for the future, not only for his own business but for the entire floral industry.
“I would love for more people to buy flowers and to think of them as a great gift-giving option, so not only our business can grow but the entire industry as a whole,” he said. “I’d like people to think of us when they need flowers for special occasions.”
Carrying on his family’s more than 100-year legacy in the Capital Region is not one Gallo takes lightly.
“Anyone who gets into this business wants to carry on the name and its legacy — not only myself, but all of the staff,” he said. “We consider it a privilege to be part of people’s lives and part of the fabric of the Capital Region business community.”
Frank Gallo & Son Florist
Owner: Frank Gallo
Location: 1601 State St., Schenectady
Service: Full-service florist
Serving: Capital Region
Years in business: 102