By M. Dennis Taylor
J.P. Varvarigos was born and raised in the floral business. As an adult, he runs Wellington Florist, recently voted the best florist in Palm Beach County. The third generation in the business, his grandfather was a florist in Queens, N.Y. His parents, Dean and Melinda Varvarigos, met as young adults in Fort Lauderdale while working for Buning the Florist. After their marriage, they ran their own shop for a decade before moving up to Palm Beach County.
The couple opened a small shop in Wellington 30 years ago, and Wellington Florist has since grown into a community institution.
“We moved to Wellington when there were still cows in open fields,” Melinda recalled. “When my husband came up to look at the property, he saw someone ride their horse up to the Burger King to get lunch.”
They were excited to learn more about the fledging community. “We knew immediately that this was where we wanted to be,” she said. “It has grown so much over the years.”
Melinda, who has earned the highest accreditation a florist can achieve from the American Institute of Floral Designers, is semi-retired nowadays and chooses to work only during very busy rush periods. Dean, one of the founders of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, passed away in 2017.
Yet that small floral business they established has continued to grow.
“We have doubled in size and volume about every five years,” said J.P. Varvarigos, who has been running the shop for the last decade. “Today, we have more square footage devoted to coolers than the entire size of that first shop.”
Those coolers hold the supplies of favorites and exotic flowers the shop has standing orders for each week, replenishing and maintaining an extensive and reliable inventory.
With meticulous care given to the reception and handling of the stable inventory, they also expect to accommodate large, last-minute orders and can fill them with incredibly short notice. What might take a smaller competitor days to source, Wellington Florist is likely to have in stock.
“We take the temperature of all the flowers when they are received to ensure they have not been mishandled and gotten hot, and we are known for rejecting and sending back any substandard flowers,” Varvarigos said. “Our vendors appreciate that we have standing orders all year round, so we get their best supplies first. They know they can’t get away with sending us anything but the best. In last year’s shortage of flowers, we were not even affected. The vendors supplied us first.”
Varvarigos said that the freshest inventory is handled by an expert staff with “can-do attitudes,” as the business offers great careers with a positive work/life balance — not just jobs to its 14 employees. “You get what you pay for. We ‘share the wealth’ so to speak, even for entry level positions… Our personnel are happy and not looking for something else. That equals retention,” he explained.
The thing that really sets Wellington Florist apart is its seven-day guarantee.
“There are no questions asked, no chiding that you must not have changed the water, or queries about how close to the sunlight the arrangement was placed. Just zero liability, never any buyer’s remorse,” Varvarigos said. “Even if they were surprised that they didn’t like the smell or the yellow wasn’t the shade they were expecting. The staff loves it because all they have to do is say, ‘We are sending a replacement.’ And it is a policy that is so worth it for customer and employee satisfaction.”
Nevertheless, the number of replacements going out represent just a tiny fraction of orders.
The business has always been active with charitable donations and supportive of area seniors. “We like to give back to the community with birthday arrangements and donations,” Varvarigos said.
The business has corporate standing orders for funeral homes, law firms, doctor’s offices and well-heeled, sometimes celebrity clients. It takes a special pride in every floral arrangement the designers create. “Every arrangement — even a standard order — has a premium flower in it that sets it off,” Varvarigos said.
Varvarigos added that now that the pandemic has waned, he expects to be doing many events that were canceled last year. “We took the time to completely revamp our web presence and to upgrade our storefront online,” he said. “We try to have a huge selection of up to 200 products available online for same day delivery.”
The excellent products, reliable service and unswerving dedication to customer satisfaction all blend to explain why Wellington Florist recently earned the business of the year award in the floral niche by the readers of the Palm Beach Post. “We are constantly sourcing flowers, getting better all the time,” Varvarigos said.
With future plans to expand the size of the facility, Varvarigos is also working to get a liquor license so their arrangements can include a bottle of champagne.
Wellington Florist is located at 13889 Wellington Trace in the Wellington Marketplace shopping plaza. For more info., call (561) 333-4441 or visit www.wellingtonflorist.com.