Bringing Events Life!
When planning an event, and you want it to be special, where do you start? Where do you go? Amistad Wholesale Floral and Crafts, of course. Marcelino and Francisca Garcia started the business out of their living room 39 years ago. When it got to the point that it was threatening to take over the entire house, they took a leap of faith and opened Floreria la Amistad Wholesale.
“My father had worked for a wholesale floral company for eight years, doing every part of the business as the right hand man,” said Sylvia Cantu, manager and one of the two Garcia daughters working at Amistad. When customers began asking him to open his own business because they didn’t like the way the owner did business or how the employees were treated, he decided to do it.”
We were a small business but he had faith in God he was going to be fine and that those customers who had promised to follow him would do so. It was May of 1976 when they started the business.”
Not able to hire staff, the four Garcia daughters did it all – opened boxes, unloaded shipments and stocked shelves.
“That’s how we were brought up–working, working, working,” Sylvia laughed. “I’m still working, but I love it!”
After two years working out of their home, even closing their garage to make a warehouse, they moved the business to Dallas Avenue where they rented for 16 years.
During the 80’s peso devaluations, Marcelino found the business in a tight financial spot. Mexican customers were fading away, but he still had his family to support. He took a maintenance job at the First National Bank. For four years he worked days at the store, and from 5:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. he worked at the bank doing what he had to in order to keep his world together.
Marcelino then decided it was time to take the next bold step.
“One day when he was driving around looking for another place to move the company, he saw our current building with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the window. He gave them a down payment, discovered the building came with a good size parking lot across the street, and was elated.”
While Sylvia acquired her education degree at UTPA, weekends found her at the store, defining clearly where her heart was. She also discovered she had the business acumen to be an asset to her parents. One other sister, Yanira, later joined the family business, and is a major reason for the customer service compliments Amistad Wholesale Floral & Crafts receives.
By ë94, they acquired Walmart as a customer, a major coup. Today, they’ve also added HEB to their clientele, as well as many local florists and supermarkets.
A major force in the floral and craft supply industry in the Valley, this wholesaler/retailer meets the needs of schools, churches, companies and individuals.
Taking their responsibility to their customers seriously, Marcelino and Sylvia attend at least three markets a year. January finds them in Dallas, where they prebook for Christmas. They are back again in July when they prebook for spring. Then it’s off to Las Vegas for a trade show where they order all their Valentine’s products.
With graduation, football, Christmas and Valentine’s Day as their four major celebrations, the Garcia family also stocks the products for quinceaneras, weddings, Halloween, All Soul’s Day, and just about anything else for which someone might need party decor. The inventory includes mesh for wreaths, ribbons, tiara’s, Western items, flowers in colors for the seasons, mylar balloons, masks and baskets.
An added warehouse across the street has enabled them to expand their lines during the Christmas season. It transforms the store into a sparkling showroom where life event fantasies are conjured and designed, with the help of the ever ready, smiling, experienced staff.
One might think with all this going on – a strong staff of approximately 10, three temporary students to help through homecoming, and a floral designer who has been with them for 33 years – that Marcelino and Francisca would have retired.
“My dad is 74,” Sylvia said. “He says he’ll never retire.”
Tucked away in a back room is a tiny apartment set up for the Garcias. There’s an area with a bed for a nap if needed, a microwave to cook that hurried meal, and a couch and TV to relax for a minute during a busy day. The store is their baby, still, and being part of it is just as natural as taking a breath of fresh air. Marcelino is still a vital part of the daily workings of this busy store, located at 1416 Fresno Avenue in downtown McAllen.
The business recently joined the McAllen Chamber, and Sylvia is delighted with the decision. “Dora Brown suggested that we join the Chamber because she knew there were a lot of people who didn’t know about our place. We signed up and it’s been a wonderful network. Every day we get emails, calls, and invitations.” We look forward to other opportunities because of the McAllen Chamber,” Sylvia smiles. Without a doubt she brings her positive, motivational spirit to the business to the delight of its customers.
Recently changing the name to better reflect their clientele, Amistad Wholesale Floral & Crafts is the store to brighten anyone’s special occasion.
“Treating every customer as a friend is what we do here every day,” Sylvia said.
Sylvia manages the company by doing what she has chosen to do – keep her father’s dream alive and make everyone else’s special occasion dreams come true…too.