A DAY IN THE LIFE — A Florist
Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series spotlighting various professionals in our community, highlighting the impact of their work. Have an idea for the series? Email email@example.com.
The sweet scent of lilies, daisies, roses, carnations and daffodils fill the air. Their brightly-hued petals offer sensory pleasure to the eyes of shoppers.
“What better job could you have than giving people flowers every day?” Rick Gooding said.
Gooding is the sole proprietor of Lowe’s Flowers, 212 S. Third St. As a florist, Gooding creates floral arrangements for people commemorating all sorts of occasions: births, marriages, holidays, anniversaries, deaths and those “just because” moments.
“We have customers we get from birth to death. We handle generations of families,” he said.
Gooding, a native of Marshalltown, worked as a delivery boy for Lowe’s Flowers while a college student at MCC. He earned a degree in English and journalism from Central College in 1970, then spent two years in the U.S. Navy.
“I served on a light guided missile cruiser that was the vehicle for the commander of the whole Pacific fleet,” he said. “I worked as a journalist third class in the public relations office.”
Gooding wrote for the ship’s monthly magazine, helped put out a newspaper and made brochures. One year, he created a yearbook for the ship, having it printed in nearby Japan.
Upon leaving the Navy in 1972, he returned to Marshalltown, still uncertain about what road to take on his career path.
“I stopped into Lowe’s, just to say hi to everyone, and the owner’s dad offered me a job. I’ve been here ever since,” Gooding said.
Although he was employed by the shop’s owner, Nancy Lowe, it was her parents, Wayne and Dorothy Thomas, who ran the day-to-day operations while Nancy was raising her children.
“Wayne was my mentor,” Gooding said. “Nancy had opened her flower business within her parents’ art store in 1960 — our current location — and it just grew and grew until their art store closed, and the building was remodeled. It was only her flower shop by the time I started working here.”
Having a life-long interest in color and design, Gooding settled into the profession of florist, casting aside his initial plan to become a teacher. Receiving praise — in the form of compliments and smiling faces — makes the job worthwhile. Eventually, he took on managerial tasks. He bought the business in 2006.
“You have to keep your customers happy so they come back,” he said. “I will hear people people say ‘Oh I would just love to fool with flowers’ but it’s more than fooling with flowers. There’s a lot of stress. If something doesn’t come in for an order you have to figure out what to substitute.”
The flower business has evolved since the time of Goodings’ delivery boy years.
“Nowadays, almost everything is available year-round. If it doesn’t come from the United States, it will come from South America, Australia or Europe, and it’s called the chain of life. Something is cut in Europe one day, packed that day, shipped to the United States the next day, and then to the wholesalers that day, and to us on the third day,” he said.
As a result, it’s not uncommon to receive a delivery of merchandise daily. Gooding said orders for funerals are his business’ “bread and butter.” The holiday that elicits the highest volume of orders — a figure of 500 — is Mother’s Day, followed by Valentine’s Day as a close second. His staff of six stays occupied with taking and fulfilling orders and making deliveries. Maggie, the shop’s rescue cat, supervises their work.
Gooding said he has seen a decline in people placing orders for delivery to hospitals. Also, younger folks have shown a preference for fresh flowers over the fake variety.
“We call artificial flowers permanent botanicals,” he noted of the marketing tactic. “We still get calls from people saying they don’t want any of those plastic flowers. A long time ago, they were all made from plastic and now they’re fabric and look so realistic.”
In his spare time, he enjoys theater. Gooding has been active in the Marshalltown Community Theatre since the early 70s, directing and acting in plays. He recently served as its board president. For many years, he and his brother and sister-in-law ran a catering business.
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