Merrill County Market opens full-service floral department
BY TINA L. SCOTT
Dave’s County Market in Merrill now has a new full-service floral department.
Store Manager Reno Ares said Rose Schoepke, who came to County Market with 20 years of experience in floral design, will be the Flower Department Manager and Floral Designer.
Until just recently, “We’ve had flowers, but no design,” Ares said.
“This is going to be a full-service flower shop, so that means weddings, funerals, prom, peppermint, you name it, birthdays, anniversaries, the list goes on and on,” Schoepke said.
Schoepke, who formerly worked at Green’s Floral on Cleveland St. in Merrill for 5 years until the owners retired and the shop closed, and then most recently worked at Broses for 14 years, is excited to be sharing her design expertise with Dave’s County Market and filling a need in the community, she said.
Schoepke started with County Market on May 16, 2023, and is hard at work establishing the store’s new floral department as the new “go to” place for fresh flower arrangements in Merrill.
In fact, it was Schoepke’s idea to create a complete, full-service floral department as a part of the grocery store’s offerings.
When her last position ended, Schoepke approached Ares about joining the store to create the department. “You don’t have to train me, you don’t have to do anything,” she told Ares. Her prior experience as both a full-service flower shop manager and a floral designer meant that she could step right in, set up the department, start designing and selling arrangements, and draw business into County Market based on her reputation in the community for high-quality flower arrangements.
She explained the need for the service in Merrill and said she pitched her idea, first to Ares and later to the store’s owners: “If people go to Wausau for flowers, what else are they going to do in Wausau?” The benefits to keeping business local and, in particular, to bringing the flower business into County Market, are significant, she pointed out.
For instance, she said, “If you get a funeral family in here (in County Market) to get their flowers, they’re gonna get their food from here, too.” It’s logical, she said, that adding a full-service floral department to the grocery store would increase the store’s bottom line on multiple levels, increasing the sales of flowers for sure, and also likely increasing sales in other food-related departments, as well. Whether customers come in to buy their fresh flower arrangements for birthdays or anniversaries or any occasion, it’s a win-win. They’re likely to also purchase the food they need to celebrate the occasion.
And, most importantly, “You have to keep people (shopping) in Merrill,” Schoepke said.
Ares, who is relatively new to the position of Manager at Dave’s County Market but has been making some noticeable changes in the store, immediately embraced the idea.
Together, Schoepke and Ares approached the owners of the store with a solid business plan and numbers to show how the new addition to the Merrill County Market would be a positive move and make a positive impact on the store’s bottom line. While the current owners, who also own a line of Festival Foods grocery stores, don’t have floral departments in their stores, here in Merrill we have a market and an opportunity, Ares and Schoepke eplained.
And already, “just from word of mouth,” business is picking up, Schoepke and Ares said. The proof is in the numbers they’ve been tracking. “We’re measuring growth,” they said.
“Reno said the numbers are just going up and up and up,” Schoepke added.
“(It) just makes me feel fulfilled in a way to be able to offer more to the community and bring on Rose,” Ares said.
“I think it’s great that County Market did it, and they need to be recognized for it,” Schoepke said.
There’s a market for it and an opportunity, she said. “I thought I could retire, but I don’t want to, I enjoy what I’m doing.”
Emphasis on full-service
The real key emphasis in the new floral department is full-service, Schoepke said. For her, that means an “emphasis on design work.”
“The new expanded floral department (is here) to meet the community’s floral needs including weddings, funerals, etc., which previously County Market did not offer,” Schoepke said, and customers can expect the same quality of arrangements she provided in her previous positions.
For weddings, “I usually sit with the bride,” Schoepke said. “They normally call me and then I set up a wedding consultation.” She said she then designs the flowers according to what the bride wants. For weddings, brides should plan to work with her at least six weeks in advance so she can order the specific flowers desired.
For funerals, “Families can come in, I’ll sit with them, they’ll tell me what they want, and that’s what I do,” Schoepke said. Prices will be comparable to any other full-service flower shop. “Same quality, same price,” she said.
Krueger’s Wholesale Floral provides high quality fresh flowers and delivers to the store twice a week, so Schoepke can get all the fresh flowers she needs for orders.
And, just like other full-service flower shops, Schoepke will offer a large selection of fresh flowers on hand, flowering and potted plants, and a larger selection of designed floral arrangements available for immediate purchase at the store.
Dave’s County Market shoppers can already see a much larger selection of floral offerings at the store.
Schoepke said many of the pre-arranged vases and smaller arrangements she creates that people can just “pop in and purchase” have been selling quickly.
Wider selection at various price points
Previously, County Market offered plastic-wrapped fresh flower bunches in the produce section, Ares said, and they will continue to provide those for customers who just want to purchase a bunch of flowers and go. The wrapped bunches are at the lower price point. Schoepke also creates small and larger floral arrangements at a variety of price points to meet the needs of a variety of shoppers.
For instance, she likes to create “little arrangements at a small price point” that someone can just stop in and pick up “for somebody at Pine Crest or whatever.”
She also offers larger, more elaborate arrangements for bigger impact.
Occasionally, County Market also offers potted flowers outside in front of the store. For instance, they recently offered hanging potted flower baskets for Mother’s Day, and in the fall they usually offer potted mums.
The new expanded flower department means there will be something for everyone.
Delivery limited “for the moment”
“We’ll deliver weddings and funerals for right now, but not daily delivery,” Schoepke said when asked about delivery. She will also deliver altar flowers to area churches by request.
For other arrangements, people can call her to tell her what they’d like her to create and then pick their orders up at this time, she said.
Once it picks up a little bit more, then she is hoping to hire another designer and offer delivery for all floral arrangements, she said.
Planning for expansion
“In a few months, what used to be the Park City Credit Union area, will become the more visible floral department,” Schoepke said. “But that will require some remodeling, so the owners of the store want to see how well the department succeeds before they invest in that.”
The wall will be removed to open the area up, a sink will be added to make a more functional design space, and coolers will be added to store more flowers and arrangements. The area already has a small room for consultations. That expanded space will have more displays and more of an in-house flower shop look and feel, Schoepke said.
Already she has focused on getting the flowers and arrangements featured more prominently up front, in front of that space, but she is really excited for when it will be a truly dedicated flower department location up at the front of the store.
“It’s going to be a process,” she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be really nice, but that’s in the works.”
The new design room will be fairly open where people can watch her work, but for the moment she’s working in a back area and customers can ask for her at the service desk.
Accepting donations of excess floral containers
For churches and others who are frequent recipients of flowers and bouquets, empty vases seem to accumulate in cupboards. When asked if she would accept donations of used vases, Schoepke promptly said, ““Definitely!”
“I do that a lot,” she said. She said she washes up the vases with a special cleaner and they are as good as new so she can use them again. She does the same thing with baskets. She will refurbish them so they can be used to contain another beautiful flower arrangement all over again. And it’s a lot better than throwing them away. She believes in reusing and upcycling.
“There’s a lot of people, especially when somebody dies, there’s all kinds of things that I can use (for flower arrangements), and they bring them to me,” she said.
“They can bring them to the service desk and just ask for me,” Schoepke said. She will happily come up to collect them and give them new life.
To speak with Schoepke to set up a wedding or funeral flower consultation, or to order a custom floral bouquet or arrangement for a special occasion, call Dave’s County Market at 715.536.2571 and just ask for “County Market Floral.” Schoepke is currently in the store Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., but she is also on call outside of that timeframe, if needed for a funeral, she said.