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ARCHIVED  September 10, 1999

Budding Palmer firm grows from deep roots

FORT COLLINS — The Palmer Flowers greenhouse at 3700 S. College Ave. in Fort Collins is a window into the rewards of hard work — a flowing, almost organic, structure that reflects both the depths of produce housed within and the vision of Spiro Palmer’s latest project unfolding without.

Sitting comfortably in the modest surroundings of his office, Palmer, 49, projects an air of quiet enthusiasm and control. Phase II of the Palmer Design Center, located just north of Phase I and northeast of the Palmer Flowers greenhouse, is only weeks away from completion. Another dream nears realization for Palmer, who seems to take every turn in his career (as well as every compliment) in stride; he remains unshaken — and by all accounts unchanged — by the rare string of successes that have followed his up-and-up career.

“My uncle once gave me a little advice,” Palmer recalled. “If you work 40 hours a week, you’ll starve to death, but if you work 80-plus hours a week, you can have your own business.”

“It really was a rags-to-riches story,´ said Maria Jolly, property manager for Palmer Properties and an employee of Palmer since 1983. “Spiro’s constantly challenged by new designs, new concepts. He’s always on the edge. He’s not afraid to spend money to try new things.”

Palmer emigrated from Greece with his wife, Angela, in 1972. For a short time, he worked with his older brothers at a flower shop in Boulder before striking out on his own in 1976, opening the Palmer House Florist on the corner of College Avenue and Olive Street in Fort Collins. In 1983, he built the 17,000-square-foot Palmer House Florist and Greenhouse building (now Palmer Flowers) on South College Avenue, metaphorically planting a flower in the desert — south Fort Collins was largely undeveloped at the time.

But despite its remote location, Palmer Flowers flourished, doubled its sales volume in the first year and continued to expand thereafter to meet the demands of a blossoming community.

Phase I of the Palmer Design Center and the Palmer Decorating Gallery opened for business in November 1996 with the purpose of consolidating interior-design services ranging from flowers and art to furniture, lamps, rugs and wallpaper. Office space at the center is available only to design-related businesses.

Fort Collins-based Vaught Frye Architects served as architects on the project, but firm principal Frank Vaught noted that the final design really resulted from a team effort involving the architects and Palmer.

“Spiro had a vision to create a building that made a statement. He gave us the freedom as architects to make that vision come true,” Vaught said. “The fun working with Spiro is he does give others that ability to create what he has in his mind. But more, what he does is puts the right tenants together, tenants that support each other. I think his whole Design Center concept is somewhat unique to Fort Collins.”

Palmer Flowers, which recently ranked 65th on a Teleflora Wire Service nationwide study of more than 26,000 flower shops, further expanded its exposure in January 1997, when Palmer arranged to supply flowers to the Fresh Flower Market walk-in coolers that appeared in Steele’s Market grocery stores in Fort Collins and Windsor.

Kityama Brothers Greenhouses, a Brighton-based producer of flowers, has supplied Palmer with produce (primarily roses) for more than 20 years, said Kityama sales manager Arlene Supple.

“Spiro’s been an excellent client of ours. He buys about 200,000 stems from us a year,” she said, noting that Palmer makes a point of buying only the freshest flowers available — as soon as they are cut. “He’s enormously quality-conscious. The quality he looks for is top of the line, and he’s willing to pay for it.”

The key to success, Palmer said, is simple: “Knowing what the public wants and providing it to them.”

Fresher, longer-lived flowers may be a given commodity among flower shoppers, but flowers are only one piece of Palmer’s business now. Gauging the particular tastes and trends in the home décor industry requires foresight and even a little luck, and Palmer will often order a season’s stock as much as a year in advance.

Bill Anker, regional sales manager for Windward: A Lifestyle Company — a national producer of home décor accessories and a supplier to the Palmer Gallery — agreed that predicting the home décor market is a difficult but necessary skill for a successful business.

“The industry is different everywhere in the country,” Anker said. “With the economy being so good, it’s a very strong industry, but there are other things that affect it.

“Spiro makes sure he goes to a lot of trade shows. He’s real active in the industry throughout the country,” Anker added. There are a lot of people I deal with who are good business people and then there are a lot of people who are good at the creative aspect. Spiro’s a real good business person, but he also has a real good knack for the creative part.”

Palmer is both an artist and a businessman, with a keen eye for his customers’ needs.

“I set goals a long time ago when I started that I would try to offer the best service and the best value,´ said Palmer, ever reluctant to acknowledge the success that surrounds him. “The satisfaction is going through a season and doing well and having customers appreciate what we do. It’s not the money.”

Others readily agree. The measure of Spiro Palmer is not in his many tangible successes but in his character and the trust he builds in those who know him and buy his products.

“I put him in the top 10 people in Fort Collins,” Vaught said. “He contributes to the vitality of the city in his efforts to donate time and services and beautify the city. He’s a unique individual.”

FORT COLLINS — The Palmer Flowers greenhouse at 3700 S. College Ave. in Fort Collins is a window into the rewards of hard work — a flowing, almost organic, structure that reflects both the depths of produce housed within and the vision of Spiro Palmer’s latest project unfolding without.

Sitting comfortably in the modest surroundings of his office, Palmer, 49, projects an air of quiet enthusiasm and control. Phase II of the Palmer Design Center, located just north of Phase I and northeast of the Palmer Flowers greenhouse, is only weeks away from completion. Another dream nears realization for Palmer, who…

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