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Avas Flowers enjoys being in the middle of it all

Neuenhaus found new way to compete with e-commerce site

Matthew Neuenhaus, president and founder of Avas Flowers in Mahwah.-(PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

Mahwah-based Avas Flowers sold enough roses in 2014 to present one to each first-time mother in the U.S. since 2012, says Matthew Neuenhaus, founder and president.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, that’s about 3.2 million roses.

What a way to pitch a growing business just in time for Mother’s Day.

Neuenhaus — a U.S. Navy veteran with a background in finance — found himself working in brick-and-mortar retail floristry in New City, New York, since 2000, using contacts within the Hollywood scene to provide high-end flower and plant designs for major social events and luxurious weddings.

With the arrival of his children, however, Neuenhaus switched gears in 2008 to create an innovative business model that would achieve bigger growth and more stability in the floral industry and compete in the e-commerce space.

Instead of purchasing through wholesalers — as traditional retail florists normally do — Avas Flowers would work directly with growers to provide customers nationwide with a better product at a lower price.

Simply by removing the middle man, Avas Flowers has been able to compete with other more established online players including 1-800-Flowers and FTD.com.

Neuenhaus said that for large companies, such massive overhead may translate into both higher prices and longer supply chain.

“The majority of shareholders at those companies never see the flowers,” Neuenhaus said. “And on the East Coast, almost all flowers come from South America — they enter Miami, sit there for up to a week, and are then trucked up the East Coast to wholesalers who hold them for up to a week before selling them to brick-and-mortar florists — who may hold them for as long as another week.”

The fact that Avas Flowers can secure its flowers and plants within two days has made it a multimillion-dollar company, with a fulfillment center and floral designers in Mahwah, additional office space in Hackensack and support facilities in South America and Asia.

“We hand-pick and score our growers, so we have a lot more control over the process and product,” Neuenhaus said, “And our inventory turns over within two days, so our less expensive product is a lot fresher.”

Meg Fry

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