Before moving to the United States, Arash Esmaeili owned his own florist business in Costa Rica for about fifteen years. When he relocated to Texas from Central America, it took him some time to get back into the industry. Getting accustomed to different industry standards and climate restrictions took some getting used to, but after working with several local florists, and consulting with some helpful floral designer friends in the Austin area, Arash was able to “get back to what he knows.”
In 2016, Arash and his wife Merlin decided to start their own florist business known as Billowing Blooms. They began working out of their home, which “was very challenging,” according to Merlin. They began mostly doing holiday orders to start off, until they found the perfect opportunity to grow their business by relocating to a warehouse in 2018.
Billowing Blooms started with a “tiny 5×5 cooler” they purchased from another vendor. Arash and Merlin first heard about Coolbot from their floral designer friend who encouraged them to use a CoolBot for the new cooler. “We hadn’t seen anything like it before,” Merlin says. “Because we’re renting the space we’re in, and it’s not our property, we wanted something potentially movable in case we found another more permanent location.” Although the small cooler was able to get them through the Valentine’s Day rush, Arash desired a larger cooler to help meet business needs. “That’s when we got the 8’x12’ turnkey walk-in cooler from y’all,” expressed Merlin.
As Billowing Blooms expanded, so did their need for more room. They recently expanded to a second warehouse to allow more space for their design studio, to accommodate all the day-to-day orders, as well as the increase in wedding designs. “We’ve been going strong on weddings for the last year and a half,” tells Merlin. “Which is why we needed a second, larger cooler.
”When Covid hit this spring, many brides began to reschedule their spring weddings for the fall and the winter. Billowing Blooms did all they could to be flexible and accommodating in order to provide the best customer service possible, especially during unprecedented times. “Initially, we were really concerned and had our employees cut back to part-time for a couple of months. Texas had a partial shut down, but because we have got an agriculture license, we were allowed to stay open throughout the pandemic,” Merlin explains. “We don’t feel like we took as big of a hit as we thought we would as we were only down for about two months before business eventually picked back up.”
All the effort paid off. September 2020 hit and Billowing Blooms was busy coordinating and creating wedding floral designs as the rescheduled weddings quickly filled up their weekends. “We’ve had four to five weddings each weekend to accommodate our brides. That’s when the rush for the new cooler came into play,” says Merlin. “The need for the new cooler was pretty quick and unexpected.”
With the new rescheduled wedding season upon them, Arash and Merlin decided to go bigger, opting for one of our new, expanded turnkey models that measures 10’x20’ feet.
Billowing Blooms uses their Coolbots for finished arrangements, storing them at about 40-42 degrees. They rotate their flower inventory through the coolers as necessary, timing everything just right so the flowers will be “open and beautiful depending on the needs of the clients,” according to Merlin. “For example, lilies and roses need to come out of the cooler in order to bloom and open in time for events and photos, etc.”
The mobility of Coolbot appealed to them. At first, their 8’x12’ turnkey cooler seemed like a huge upgrade from that little 5’x5’ they’d been using. Arash and Merlin built temporary shelves out of cinder blocks and wood to store flower buckets, which they use to preserve flowers. They also used heavy duty metal stands on casters to move flowers and arrangements in and out of their cooler. This allowed for easier access and organization.
Between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day this year, “there was a lot of movement,” admits Merlin. Not having permanent shelving installed certainly helped, but needing to constantly rotate everything around in order to keep the bouquets cool and accessible became quite stressful for Merlin, Arash and their designers.
But that was before they invested in their new 10’x20’ turnkey cooler.
Now there’s no more running out of room or needing to fabricate more last minute shelving as they got busier. Their warehouse space is large enough so that one side is dedicated to design, and the other for storage and production. And now, with their dueling Coolbots, Billowing Blooms has the capacity to make and store both their day-to-day bouquets and entire wedding party arrangements.
“It’s been quite a relief,” tells Merlin. “We just use regular shelving units inside the 10’x20’ cooler. The big cooler is typically used for weddings as we can really spread out in there. Now we use the 8’x12’ for our everyday arrangements.”
“The new 10’x20’ cooler really is a great size. We found the door placement in the 8’x12’ a bit awkward as we felt we lost a whole wall with it placed in the middle, so we’ve really been able to utilize our extra wall space in the 10’x20’. We didn’t really realize how big it was (the new cooler) before we put the smaller one next to it. It’s been very, very beneficial. We’ve had 4-5 full wedding orders stored in there at the same time. It’s amazing and has been really good for us so far,” tells Merlin.
“When the weddings began again, there were a lot of micro weddings,” Merlin explains. “People who had had big weddings in mind opted for smaller, more intimate weddings instead. As such, our arrangements and orders changed. We really try to work with our brides and their budgets, working within their confines, so it’s kind of fun – turning lemons into lemonade.”
“It could’ve been worse. And we’re glad that it wasn’t,” says Merlin.