Cindy Lucero-Archuleta’s first job was as a florist while she was still attending high school in New Mexico.
She moved to Colorado Springs in the late 1980s with her husband at the time and helped open the floral department at the city’s first Walmart. She then went on to help manage floral departments at local King Soopers grocery stores.
While working at King Soopers, Lucero-Archuleta, now owner of A Wildflower Florist & Gifts off North Powers Boulevard, was approached to be a union steward for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7, an organization she worked for in several capacities, including secretary-treasurer, for 25 years.
“I became a union business agent and represented workers for half of the city — at King Soopers, Safeway, Albertsons and the military base barbers,” Lucero-Archuleta said. “I was responsible for filing grievances, negotiating contracts, making sure both sides were abiding by the contract and making sure membership was happy.”
She left union work about five years ago and was board chairwoman for the all-volunteer El Cinco de Mayo, a Colorado Springs nonprofit dedicated to increasing cultural awareness and raising scholarships for underserved and underrepresented students. The organization raised $17,000 in scholarships this year alone.
But her career course changed two years ago, while out for yogurt with her husband and granddaughter. Lucero-Archuleta stopped to smell the flowers.
Masters of design
It was the week leading up to Mother’s Day and, while passing an existing floral shop at 2916 N. Powers Blvd., Lucero-Archuleta noticed the lights were still on, but the store was closed for the day.
She knocked, and told the person who answered that she could help during the weekdays.
“They asked if I was a florist or designer, and I said yes,” she said. “They hired me on the spot.”
Lucero-Archuleta worked there during the summer, and then the owner said he was interested in selling. And she discovered that she was interesting in buying.
“So I did it. I love doing what I do. I make people happy,” she said.
Despite having never owned a business, Lucero-Archuleta said she was confident she would be successful.
“I knew the flower business because of the experience I’d had running the floral departments at King Soopers and my union experience as the secretary-treasurer helped me on the business side,” she said. “I think we’ve done very well.”
When Lucero-Archuleta first took over operations, she only had one worker, a delivery driver. She now has five employees, most of whom work more than 30 hours a week.
She also took over a gift shop at Peterson Air Force Base’s base exchange in April and opened a floral shop there.
Businesses on base don’t have to pay for the space or utilities, Lucero-Archuleta said. But they do pay the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, or AAFES, a percentage of sales.
“That varies from 15 to 22 percent,” she said.
Lucero-Archuleta also recently put in a bid to operate inside Fort Carson’s post exchange and will find out in the next couple weeks if she is approved for the space.
According to Lucero-Archuleta, the majority of her business comes from weddings and funerals, and it’s the level of customer service that sets her apart from the competition.
“I have a fantastic crew. They’re all very educated in the floral business,” she said. “And I’m a master designer, which means I had to pass a written and design test. … I’ve been in this business 35 years, off and on.”
Lucero-Archuleta also started floral design classes on Thursday nights. For $20 per class, the community can come learn the tricks of the trade. But Lucero-Archuleta said it also introduces people to the profession.
“There aren’t enough floral designers out there. When the holiday season comes, we need the help,” she said. “Not just myself, but other flower shops too.”
A Wildflower Florist & Gifts also delivers citywide, Lucero-Archuleta said.
“We have to make sure we provide services that other flower shops don’t. … We’re custom designers, so it’s not going to look like it came out of a box.”
Lucero-Archuleta said the greatest challenge is making customers happy and getting them to come back.
“Since big corporations have started selling flowers, they’ve shut down a lot of flower shops — Safeway, King Soopers, Costco, Sam’s [Club]. They get the big price breaks and we have to struggle and wheel and deal with vendors to survive.
“But we make up for it with customer service and quality. We’re fresher and bring in flowers almost daily. I won’t accept anything but the best.”
And Lucero-Archuleta has greater ambitions for the near future.
“I want a one-stop shop — a flower shop where you can come in and get your hair done, your nails done, you can order gowns and tuxedos,” she said. “I want to have a venue that can accommodate events. … That takes the stress away from people, whether prom or homecoming or a wedding — an all-in-one place eliminates all that time of running from here to here to here.
“I have plans. I’m just looking for the right spot.” n CSBJ