Even after 80 years in business, Beretania Florist continues to have that sweet smell of success.
A successful multi-generational family business is a rare beast these days.
Beretania Florist, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, is happy to be the exception to the rule.
“The chances of success, once you get down to the third and fourth generations, are very tiny — less than 10 percent when you get down to the fourth generation,” says sales and marketing director Reece Nakamoto Farinas. (Family Business Institute puts the odds at just 3 percent, in fact.)
And yet, here is Beretania Florist, still operating out of its original storefront on Beretania Street, still owned and operated by three generations of the Nakamoto family, still offering the same signature blooms that have created generations of loyal customers.
It officially began on Nov. 19, 1937, when Shigeichi and Yukie Nakamoto opened a little shop at 1293 S. Beretania St., but it wasn’t exactly an overnight decision.
Shigeichi had worked for a downtown florist for more than 25 years, but always wanted his own shop.
“It was kind of that Jiro Dreams of Sushi thing,” says Celeste Nakamoto Farinas, owner and president.
Shigeichi saved his money, purchased the building and opened the shop, with his family living behind the storefront, a greenhouse to one side and a koi fishpond smack in the middle of the store.
“That’s how it started,” muses past owner June Nakamoto. “My husband (Howard) worked for his parents as a driver, and he was also a designer. He was very creative, like his father was. So (Shigeichi and Yukie) worked in the flower shop for years and years and years, so when they reached retirement age at 65, they wanted to retire.”
In 1968, the reins passed to Howard and June — but the transition wasn’t as smooth as that.
“We had a meeting, and my mother-in-law mentioned that in order for Howard to be successful, his wife has to work with him. That’s me! And I said, no, no, no, I don’t want to do that because they worked every day, they only took Shogatsu, New Year’s Day, off, they never took vacation.”
But the former hairdresser was persuaded to quit her job and join her husband’s family business.
“I was so lucky because I fell in love with the business,” June says.
Nearly 45 years later, ownership passed to Howard and June’s daughter, Celeste.
“I didn’t think I was going to be a florist either,” Celeste says. “We grew up behind the shop, but we were never allowed in the store because our mom didn’t want us to get in the way.”
Nevertheless, when she went to college at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Celeste started working at Beretania Florist’s now-defunct downtown satellite location. Thirty years later, she’s still here, now running the whole show.
As for Reece, son of Celeste and Larry Farinas (and husband of MidWeek senior writer Jaimie Kim Farinas) , when the opportunity came up, he knew he had to take it.
“I always kind of felt like I wanted to be here,” he says. “Unlike my mom, I was here a lot when I was younger, and it was always a really fun environment to come here and play around.”
“Grandpa would let you make a wreath when you were little,” June chimes in.
“I’d touch the flowers, talk to the customers,” Reece adds.
“Unpack the anthuriums, damage them,” Celeste continues.
“I was making a lot of trouble,” Reece concludes. “It was half-babysitting. Mostly babysitting.”
But his mother and grandmother both extoll the benefits of having younger perspectives around (Reece’s younger brother Beau also works in the shop). Reece helped redesign the company’s website, for instance, taking his own product photos.
“He introduces us to a lot of new things because he’s excited to be here and he wants to rile us up and get us excited, which he does,” says June.
Working as a florist has its ups and downs. Hurricanes halfway around the world can disrupt supply chains. If a customer orders pink roses and all that arrives are orange, well, the florist has to figure it out and make it work. The advent of the internet also has led to a legion of educated, discerning customers that have higher standards. And of course, there’s always the challenge of same-day delivery. But some things, says June, never change.
“The thing that is the same as it was 80 years ago is that it’s a personal thing,” she declares. “You call us, and we answer … When we answer the phone, we really are interested in the customer. We really want to help them get what they want.”
And Beretania Florist is happy that they can still make people happy, even after all these years.
“With flowers, you’re dealing with emotion,” says Celeste. “It’s like occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, deaths, new births — we’re just dealing with a lot of emotion.”
“(Sometimes) people send us a thank-you card after the funeral,” June adds. “‘It was so beautiful. It made everybody feel so much better because the flowers were so beautiful.'”
“We can make it uplifting,” Celeste concludes.
And having family right there, working side by side, just makes it all better.
“It’s kind of a cliché, but it doesn’t feel like a job. When you work with your family, it feels sometimes like I’m just at home,” Celeste laughs.
Oh, they argue sometimes (as June affirms, cheerfully, that she argues with Reece about doing things a certain way) as all families do. But the bottom line for everyone is the success of the shop.
“We’re all cut from the same cloth. We all think alike and we all share the same vision and goals for the future of the company,” Reece says. “It’s a luxury I really find rewarding.”
As Beretania Florist looks toward the future, though, it seeks not to become a titan of the Hawai‘i floral industry or to expand into a conglomerate, per se.
Instead, it’s about … keeping things just the same.
“We really make an effort to make sure that people know we’re a small family business, that we don’t take on more than we can handle. We focus on making sure that everything that goes out with our name on it is top of the line, that it’s perfect,” Reece says.
That’s not to say that there isn’t any stress involved. Celeste admits that it’s pretty daunting, thinking about the two generations that have come before, and not wanting to be the one who lets them down.
“There’s a lot of pressure. There still is a lot of pressure,” she says. “But I’m glad I have Reece.”
With a family line of this caliber, though, it seems the only thing that Beretania Florist needs to take on the next 80 years is more generations.
“The bottom line is that we want the person who receives our flowers to be happy. We want the sender to be happy they chose us to send the flowers. I feel like we really care, and that’s one of the cornerstones of our business. That’s why we’re still here,” Celeste says.