“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” —Lady Bird Johnson
Hope, Compassion, Love, Sympathy, Care – Erin Pond has witnessed a range of sentiments conveyed by her boutique’s floral arrangements over the years, as customers seek a personal way to connect with loved ones and distant.
“We do this to make people happy, to spread happiness, to spread good feelings,” Pond said of the service provided by her North Bay florist, Jackman’s.
“Flowers are really just the way to do it.”
It’s hard not to feel uplifted upon entering the downtown boutique where the scent of fresh flowers and a rainbow of hues envelop your senses.
Here, skilled florists put together elaborate arrangements and simple bouquets, in traditional or modern styles, all destined for the doorstep of someone in need of encouragement or cheering.
Pond is the second generation of his family to run the business. She succeeded her parents, Barry and Marcia, just over ten years ago.
Yet Jackman’s didn’t begin life in the flower business.
When its creator, an Englishman named Walter Jackman, first settled in downtown North Bay in 1908, he was selling furniture.
Over time, he added funeral services and an ice cream shop to his repertoire, before moving on to flowers.
“Maybe it was necessary to provide several different things that were more interesting and more necessary at the time,” Pond Pond laughed.
Upon his death, Jackman bequeathed the business to a longtime employee, who moved the store from one street to its present location on Worthington Street.
This employee then ran the store for several decades before passing it on to a new owner, who also ran it for several decades before passing it on, and its ownership continued in this way through many owners.
“It’s always been about 20 years in each person’s ownership, which is also good stewardship of a business,” Pond said.
Before his parents took over in the 1970s, they lived in Toronto but were looking for a way to return to their hometown and decided to look for an existing business in North Bay that they could buy.
On a fateful trip north, they were feeling frustrated that they had found nothing to their liking when they came across the Baths, which at the time owned Jackman’s.
It turns out that the Baths were planning to sell the flower shop, but hadn’t put it up for sale yet. After discussing it, Barry and Marcia decided this would be the perfect effort for them.
“My parents had no experience in florists, but they had some business experience, along with new energy and new ideas,” Pond said. “So that’s it. They decided to go ahead and buy the flower shop and they continued in the business.
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With a shared background in business, his parents got to work introducing innovative ideas to stay ahead of changing customer needs and expectations.
At one point they expanded the business to seven locations and introduced a discount flower market to the town.
As part of one of their biggest initiatives, the Ponds approached Sears Canada with the idea of a Sears-branded flower program – launched under the “Flowers by Sears” banner – that allowed customers to order flowers through the chain and have them fulfilled and distributed nationwide by local florists.
Pond said the idea took off, and at its peak, 100 independent dealerships across Canada were licensed under the program, which was operated by a 44-seat call center to handle volume.
It was marketed and coordinated from North Bay for 21 years until the program moved to the United States and a few years later in 2018 Sears Canada went bankrupt.
Sensing the impending age of technology, the Ponds were also among the first in Northern Ontario to embrace Internet sales, setting up an e-commerce platform for Sears and Jackman’s, and being also the first to implement an automated point of sale. system.
“Previously, stores would hand-write your order, but we invested in a computerized system, so we entered the information live into the computer and could look up information about the customer’s past purchases on file to help” , Pond said.
“It’s commonplace now, but back then it wasn’t. So we were often the first in many of these areas.
Another novelty for the field was to be operational seven days a week.
Most florists only stayed open Monday through Saturday, staying on duty on Sundays in case a customer wanted to buy flowers for a funeral.
Ponds avoided this model, instead they fully staffed their store seven days a week so they could be ready to meet any customer needs.
When grocery stores and department stores began offering cut flowers at a discount, Jackman’s saw an impact on the business.
But Pond said they differentiated themselves by providing high-quality flowers and arrangements, remaining reliable and providing excellent customer service.
“We have focused on these personal relationships with our customers, but also on our quality professional florist service; not just one type of flower, but really putting together awesome designs, something that is really a beautiful, memorable floral gift for someone.
After the COVID pandemic hit in March 2020, Pond made the difficult choice to keep Jackman’s open, despite the unpredictability of rotating government restrictions and the risk associated with buying perishable inventory.
It was a prescient decision.
Because so many people couldn’t see their loved ones in person, flowers became their favorite love language.
Mother’s Day, already one of the busiest days of the year for Jackman’s, ushered in a flurry of orders, and that trend was repeated on Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and many more. other occasions in between.
“A beautiful bouquet of flowers sitting on the table with a card is a bit of a connection,” Pond said. “It was really, really heartwarming to see, and we had a lot of great conversations with the customers.”
She is delighted to see a sort of renaissance in flowers, especially among the younger generations, who are showing a new appreciation for cut flowers and plants.
Pond credits many of his long-serving employees, some of whom have been with Jackman’s for 15, 20 or more years, for helping to cement the store’s stellar reputation for service and keeping it in business all the time. these years.
She has even hired two interns, who are using their passion for flowers in a training opportunity, as part of an ongoing succession plan.
Today, more than 40% of Jackman’s orders are received through the website, and Pond believes that continuing to stay on top of industry trends and technology will be key to future success.
That and the public’s enduring appreciation for the beauty of flowers.
“It still touches me, after all these years, how caring people are,” she said.
“Taking the time to send flowers as a gift is a true expression of thoughtfulness, of caring for others, and it’s beautiful to witness it day in and day out.”
This article is part of a series focusing on the rich stories, journeys and long-term successes of generational businesses in Northern Ontario.