Michael Bartels is the third owner of College Floral and Gifts, a local floral shop that has been open since 1967. Bartels has owned the business since 1995, when he took over for Diane and Doyle Johnson after helping with the business.
But Bartels’ love for flower arrangements came from a previous job, in fact. He worked for Safeway for 14 years and found his skill in floral arrangements by accident.
“Back then, when you went through the training program, you had to go through each department,” Bartels said. “When I hit my floral rotation I had a real knack for it.”
After that, however, Bartels didn’t go into the floral industry, but into finances instead, an industry that wasn’t as fulfilling. When he had the chance to take over ownership for College Floral he jumped at it.
Since then, it’s been a wild ride, with the floral industry taking the brunt at times of financial instability. The job has changed a lot over the years, Bartels said.
“It’s a tough industry, it’s gotten tougher and tougher. Because flowers are a luxury,” Bartels said. “What do people cut when they feel the pinch? And I think in this town, right now, there’s a lot of pinching going on. All the stuff with the governor this summer and everything else that’s going on, people just aren’t comfortable spending that money.”
Currently, College Floral buys a majority its flowers from an Anchorage wholesaler with the exception of local peonies. The farthest the flowers come from are Florida, specifically for roses.
While the average price of the order has gone down, the number of orders has remained somewhat stable, with the busiest seasons creeping up fast.
“Valentine’s Day is the busiest. It’s intense, the money’s good, but it’s intense,” Bartels said.
During that week, Bartels brings on four additional delivery drivers and two or three additional designers.
The only other busy season that compares is Christmas, he says, but at least that rush is spread out over more weeks.
Bartels is currently the owner designer at the shop and one of only a three person staff. Fortunately, Bartels’ favorite part of the job is working with the flowers.
Bartels will create large-scale floral arrangements for parties, events, funerals and weddings. Those are his favorite, he notes, when he gets complete creative freedom.
“It’s the creativity that is my favorite,” he said. “I love the big arrangements. Unfortunately there aren’t as many of those these days.”
But while the flower business can be unpredictable at times, one area of the floral world where unpredictability isn’t such a bad thing is in the actual flowers.
Bartels’ favorite bloom, for example, is the orchid for that exact reason.
“You can have an orchid plant and every time they bloom, they’re different every time,” Bartels said. “The color changes a little maybe, they’re just unpredictable and I love that.”
College Floral has been voted the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Readers Choice favorite Fairbanks floral shop 12 years in a row. The business still has a loyal customer base though, Bartels said, so the shop will continue plugging along as long as that demand remains.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.
Who: College Floral and Gifts
Where: 3260 College Road
Hours: Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Contact: (907) 479-6926
On Facebook: @collegefloralfairbanks
Price: Base price $35 with delivery, price increases with size and complexity of arrangement. Free delivery if order is placed online to be delivered within a 3-mile radius of the shop.