Garaventa’s Florist Delivers - Marking Milestones for 50 Years
“When I first opened the doors to Garaventa’s Florist in 1970, my only goal was to do my best,” said Gary Garaventa, reflecting back on 50 years in business in Napa.
With the support of a loving family and a hardworking staff, Gary’s goal was accomplished from day one, and continues as they celebrate a milestone of their own. The Lincoln Avenue florist remains a local favorite when it comes time to commemorate the special occasions in life. From congratulations of a baby’s birth to the final memorial of a loved one’s life, fragrant and colorful flower arrangements have been designed and delivered by more than 200 Garaventa’s Florist employees over the past 50 years.
It all started in 1959, when Gary’s father gave his 16 year old son an ultimatum––play a sport, or get a job. The decision was easy, as Gary had grown weary of the sports injuries he endured on the football and track fields as a student athlete. Gary would get a job. Thankfully, as many a good dad’s done, Gary’s father negotiated a part-time delivery job for his son at a local florist. Gary worked hard, learning the ropes, and as they say, the rest is history.
In 1970, along with his wife, Patty, Gary decided to strike out on his own and open a flower shop in a 1,000 square foot store on Jefferson Street, a place so small that a guest count of two would have been considered a crowd. Starting a new business would surely be a struggle for the young couple, but Patty would hold everything together financially with her income as a school teacher of fifth and sixth graders at Salvador Elementary School. (Little did they know at the time, one of Patty’s students would become a Garaventa’s Florist employee in the future.)
Gary ran the tiny shop as a one-man operation, putting a ‘Be Right Back’ sign on the door when he had to leave to make deliveries. It wasn’t long before a growing clientele made a larger location with room for refrigerated storage and a dedicated parking lot a necessity--––this was the impetus to purchase a building on Lincoln Avenue, where Garaventa’s Florist has been for 48 years.
In the beginning, Gary’s aunt did the books. A few of his cousins worked for him, too. For about ten years it was a true family affair, which only got better with time. When Gary and Patty began their family, Patty retired from teaching and took over the books, becoming Gary’s partner in business as well as in life. Their son, Peter, and daughter, Gina, (who will one day take the business on as her own) are the pride and joy of the Garaventa’s. The kids grew up with the business, spending time in the shop from when they were born.
As time passed and the business grew, even with the help of the family, pressures mounted and Gary soon realized that no matter how much time you put in, one person can easily take on too much and need more help. As it happened, he observed a hardworking young lady at another flower shop. Impressed with her work ethic and kind demeanor, he asked if she would like to join the Garaventa’s team. Since that day, just about 40 years ago, Cheryl Redfern has been with Gary, assisting him with the daily details and as his personal assistant. Gary considers the three ladies in his life, Patty, Gina and Cheryl as the key to his success.
Trends in florals change often, not to mention seasonally. Now with the multitude of choices seen on the internet––there are more diverse options and requests than in the past when designs were standard and repetitive. Garaventa’s is able to hold quite a large stock of tropical and exotic flowers in their refrigerated storage. At least a dozen fresh arrangements are created each day for display and quick pick up from the shop.
With destination weddings becoming commonplace, people come from all around the world to be married in Napa Valley. Bride’s and/or groom’s desires take on a wide variety that the Garaventa’s have been able to accommodate easily with dedicated suppliers and wholesalers with which they have created partnerships throughout the years. Although Gary went to the flower market in San Francisco in the early years, he discovered that having the flowers shipped directly to the shop, almost daily, was the best use of his time.
Creativity is a strong suit with the design staff. At times, up to fifteen designers have worked on arrangements for large wedding events. One client had a Disney Princess themed wedding ceremony and reception, requiring a specific Princess bouquet for each attendant as well as Disney themed table settings. One client requested a Harley Davidson emblem. Every effort is made to satisfy the client’s wishes. Holidays continue to be very busy, utilizing the entire staff to fill orders. This was evident in May when the orders flooded in for Mother’s Day, and as usual, it was all hands on deck as they prepared for one of the biggest days of the year for all florists, even during quarantine.
Gary described his current responsibilities, simply, “I go to the bank and pay the bills. Everything else is discussed together. Because of Cheryl, I have learned to listen more and be more open to change and listen to the opinions of others.” Compliments for all the staff rolled off Gary’s tongue as though he says these things every day. Each person is valued and appreciated for their contribution––the employees are a large part of Garaventa’s success. “They have branched out in ways that make me quite proud. One young lady returned to the shop to thank me for teaching her how life works.” Garaventa’s has been able to retain their staff during these unusual times of Covid-19. There is no question, business is not what it has been in the past, but with creative scheduling and understanding on everyone’s part, the team is still together.
Giving back to the community has also been very important to Gary throughout the years, as the community helped him grow his business, and their success stemmed from that local support. Participating in the growth of the community was imperative as far as Gary was concerned, and his contributions have not gone unnoticed. In 2012, he was named Citizen of the Year by the Napa Chamber of Commerce. To name just a few other board positions Gary has filled over the years––president of Boys & Girls Club, president of Napa Valley Country Club, served on the board of Napa Valley Hospice, Queen of the Valley Medical Center Foundation and Napa Unified School District, as well as, on the Napa Valley College Foundation board and as an honorary trustee at Queen of the Valley. There are many other contributions made by Gary and Patty Garaventa over the years, and there’s certainly more to be done, but for now––let’s thank Garaventa’s Florist for the memories and here’s wishing you all 50 more years of success and then some!
851 Lincoln Avenue