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We Know our Sources: Flora Pack

We Know our Sources: Flora Pack

The following story was written by Heinen’s partner Elaine T. Cicora.

Fresh, fragrant, and colorful, the Floral Department of your local Heinen’s always offers an enticing welcome. Much of the credit goes to Heinen’s Floral Department managers, whose artistry is apparent in the eye-catching displays that enhance the entry of each store. But credit also goes to Heinen’s floral suppliers, a group of growers and producers who work hard to meet our demanding standards for quality and freshness.

Among that group of growers, Ontario-based Flora Pack is one of Heinen’s most prominent partners. Located in St. Catherines, Flora Pack is only four hours away from Northeast Ohio, across Lake Erie. This proximity allows Flora Pack products to be packaged and delivered within 24 hours to Heinen’s Cleveland and Chicago locations – a claim to freshness that other grocery retailers simply cannot make.

The History of Flora Pack

The family-owned and -operated business has a long history, dating back to 1962, when Dutch immigrants Bram and Ena Boekestyn launched their first commercial greenhouse for growing ornamental plants and flowers. In 1977, the family banded together with seven other local growers to create Flora Pack, a cooperative that would help market and sell all the growers’ products.

Since that time, the second and third generations of the Boekestyn family have become Flora Pack’s sole owners; they also own and operate approximately 10 acres of high-tech greenhouse space across three locations, where they grow most of the potted plants including chrysanthemums, gerbera, kalanchoe, Boston ferns and much more for Heinen’s customers.

A Group Photo of the Flora Pack Team

High Tech Greenhouses For High Quality Floral

Designed for efficiency, sustainability, and light transmission, Boekestyn Greenhouses provide the very best rooting environments possible for their products, says operations manager Richelle Langendoen, a third-generation family member. “We are highly automated and high-tech,” she explains. “For instance, we recycle 100% of our water, and we rely on an intensive integrated pest management system, using lots of biological control agents, including tiny parasitic wasps and nematodes; as a result, we can largely avoid the use of pesticides.”

Exterior Birds-Eye Photo of the Floral Pack Plant

The remainder of Flora Pack products come from their partner-growers in Ontario. “Those growers look to us to help move their products,” Kaisa explains. “So Heinen’s is not only supporting us, they’re also supporting a number of other small family-owned businesses in the area.”

Seasonal Floral form Flora Pack

Among the wide variety of seasonal Flora Pack products that shoppers will find at Heinen’s are cut flowers, including tulips, snapdragons, Gerbera daisies, and seasonal mixed bouquets; potted plants such as orchids, Easter lilies, lavender, kalanchoe, and mums; and 10-inch outdoor hanging baskets including Reiger begonias, Calibrachoa (perhaps better known as Million Bells®), and the beloved Boston Fern “Compacta,” known for its vigor, fullness and ball-like shape.

The ferns’ health and size are major points of distinction. “We start our ferns from tissue cultures to make sure they’re free from any diseases,” Richelle explains. “And we start them earlier than other growers, so they are as large as possible when we ship them to Heinen’s.”

Beyond their graceful appearance, the ferns are also popular for their minimal maintenance. “They don’t need to be dead-headed or trimmed; they don’t even need fertilizer,” says second-generation owner John Boekestyn. “Just hang them outdoors, out of direct afternoon sunlight, and give them water when they’re dry. The ferns will take care of the rest.”

While other Flora Pack plants might need a bit more attention than the easygoing ferns, shoppers can be assured that every plant comes with complete care instructions, indicating optimal light, water, and fertilizer requirements.

Freshness Comes First

Of course, as with any living product, the bottom line is freshness. And that’s where Flora Pack’s unique proximity to Cleveland pays big dividends for Heinen’s customers. “Our deliveries to Heinen’s are the quickest turnarounds we have,” says account manager Kaisa O’Brien. “There’s no sitting around on a truck or waiting in a box. In the springtime, for instance, our hanging baskets are picked up here, at our greenhouse, on Monday at 1 or 2 p.m., and they’ll be in the stores by Tuesday. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.”

And because Flora Pack products have proven so popular with Heinen’s shoppers, prices can be kept low. “There’s no customer that sells more plants per store for us than Heinen’s” John says. “That volume allows us to pass on our best prices.”

That’s one of the reasons the partnership between Flora Pack and Heinen’s has been so enduring, says John. “We’ve been working together for more than 25 years,” he notes – so long, in fact, that no one can recall the exact date!

But, John adds, there are other similarities between the two family-owned and -operated enterprises that have helped the partnership flourish. “I think businesses tend to gravitate toward partners who think like they do,” he says, “and our relationship with Heinen’s has always been a two-way street.

“We’re all about attention to detail and care for our end user – and so is Heinen’s. They’re the kind of business we’re proud to work with.”

Heinen's Grocery Store

By Heinen's Grocery Store

In 1929, Joe Heinen opened the doors of a small butcher shop on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio, aiming to establish himself as the city’s purveyor of quality meats. As customers came into Heinen’s new shop for their meat purchases, they began asking him to carry groceries as well. Joe added homemade peanut butter, pickles and donuts and by 1933, business had grown enough to include a line of produce and canned goods. Heinen’s Grocery Store was born.

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