NUTLEY, NJ — The old adage is to “say it with flowers.” And that’s what John Monaco, owner of A Personal Touch Florist, in Nutley, has been doing for three decades.
Monaco is about to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his flower shop, and it is a milestone that fills him with a great sense of pride.
Monaco, who grew up in Nutley, said that during his many years serving the Nutley community, he has seen no less than nine other florists come — and go. When asked about the secret to his success, Monaco was quick to respond. “I treat my customers like family,” Monaco told LocalSource in a phone interview.
“I put my hours in. If my customers need something, I’m there. I put my stuff and my family’s stuff off and I put my customers first.”
Monaco said his grandfather, who owned a butcher shop for more than 50 years, set a great example when it came to a work ethic. “My grandfather taught me my work ethic,” said Monaco. “My grandfather always said, ‘I’d rather have four customers and make a quarter on each, then have one customer and make a dollar,’ He was basically one of my idols and my mentor, besides my father. He got up early every morning to go to market, just like I do.”
Monaco said that he had to grow up at the tender age of 16 after his father was hurt in an explosion. “I grew up from 16 to a man overnight,” he said. “I worked for everything I got. No one handed me anything on a silver platter.”
According to Monaco, his initial career plan was to go to college for engineering. During college, however, his plans changed after he encountered the floral industry.
It all started when Monaco got a job at a flower shop — first as a delivery driver, then eventually as a floral designer inside the shop. “When I started out as a driver, I started asking a bunch of questions,” he said. “That’s how I learned.”
Monaco realized that he had found his life’s calling. “I said, ‘You know what? This is just like building,’” said Monaco. “Designing is designing. Every day was something different. It was never the same old, same old. That’s why I’m still here.”
He credits much of his success to his creativity when it comes to floral design, as well as his unique ability to read his customers and know what would suit them best. “You’ve got to look at the person and know what they’d like,” Monaco said. “You gotta be a psychologist, psychiatrist, and a friend to customers. I look at a bride when they come in and I’ll tell them, ‘That’s not for you.’ They say, ‘How do you know that?’ Now my customers say, ‘You know what we want, just do it.’”
It’s his customers that he enjoys most about owning a business, according to Monaco. “I love the people, I love the kids,” said Monaco. “I love seeing joy in the faces of kids when I give them a flower. I love being there for people and I enjoy making people happy.”
Monaco said that it fills him with joy when he receives notes and letters from satisfied customers. “When I get a note from a bride, or a family calls me about a funeral — it gives me great joy knowing that I helped,” he said.
Monaco said that the biggest challenge he faces is educating people about the flower industry and having them understand the difference between flowers from a supermarket, and flowers from a professional florist. “The floral section in supermarkets is done for convenience,” said Monaco. “You wouldn’t buy chopped meat at a florist, would you? So why would you buy flowers from a supermarket?
People don’t realize that the flowers that go into the supermarkets are already over two weeks old. Flowers from a florist come directly from our growers. Bouquets from supermarkets last three days. Mine last three weeks.”
According to Monaco, Valentine’s Day is the single busiest day of the year for him, along with Mother’s Day. But between weddings, celebrations, funerals, and holidays, he is busy all year long. In addition, he donates centerpieces to tricky-tray events at schools and is involved in a variety of community events. In addition, he has a tradition of sending a dozen complimentary, long-stem yellow roses to the grieving families of long-time customers in the event of someone’s passing.
Monaco said that currently he is gearing up for his gala anniversary celebration. “I’m here, getting the windows painted and announcing it,” he said, adding that he’ll be decorating his shop with balloons, as well as handing out free carnations to his customers. “My customers always ask me if I ever go home,” said Monaco, who claims that he loves spending his days in the shop. “You gotta enjoy what you do. My main thing is that you gotta love your job and you gotta love your customers. Life’s just too damn short.”
A Personal Touch offers a large variety of flowers and gifts for every occasion. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon. Visit A Personal Touch at 343 Franklin Ave. in Nutley.