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D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e    March 2008

Still in Bloom

Lusk Flowers is 80 years old and still fresh as a daisy, with a new partner. Plus Buffalo Bar kerfuffle, farewell Western Stationers, the Daily Press skinny and more.



Celebrating its 80th anniversary this month, Lusk Flowers & Gift Shop is one of Silver City's oldest continuously running businesses. And owner Lana Swaggerty says the company's slogan — "Simply the best. . . since 1928" — is the reason for its long success and what keeps it strong today, even in the face of an increasingly competitive local flower market.

Lana Swaggerty, owner of Lusk Flowers & Gift Shop, and Doyle Shirey, owner of Forever Flowers, which has merged with Lusk, stand in the shop's gift area with some wedding and silk flower products. (Photo by Donna Clayton Lawder)

"People know what they are getting with us; they have been loyal customers for years and expect top-quality products," she says.

And now her shop has expanded its offerings, as the company recently merged with Florever Flowers, a silk flower business owned by Doyle Shirey. That business, formerly on Hwy. 180, has moved its inventory of silk flowers and plants, gift items and an extensive line of wedding and party items, filling out the Lusk location to nearly bursting.

Swaggerty bought Lusk in August 2006 and moved it from its College Avenue home to its current spot on Pope Street. "I didn't have a choice, as the building had been sold separately," she says, "but it turns out that with the walk-by traffic here, this is a good location." Tucked in near the old Silver Heights Nursery, the shop gets a lot of daily traffic, she says, thanks to the proximity of a dry-cleaning business, a new beauty salon and other nearby businesses.

In the florist business, Swaggerty says, local clientele is what keeps a shop afloat — whether buying for the home or office or shipping through FTD wire service. Lusk is blessed with a strong, loyal local customer base, she says — customers she works hard to continue satisfying.

"This business has customers that go back years," Swaggerty says. "Even a lot of the locals who have moved away, their folks still live here and they order through us."

Repeat business and regular orders are strong, she adds. "It's tremendous. Doctor's offices, restaurants and private customers, too. Week after week, month after month, we have a lot of regular orders, and that's a huge compliment to us."



When it comes to cut flowers, freshness is a prime concern. Swaggerty points out the fresh stock at Lusk today: One flower case holds buckets and buckets of fresh cuts by the stem — brilliant Asiatic lilies, elegant white Casablanca lilies, snapdragons in a rainbow of hues from lilac to burgundy, plump crimson Gerbera daisies and, of course, roses. Another refrigerator holds more blooms, as well as buckets of feathery green filler stems. And there are vases with small to large arrangements, things to give customers ideas or to be bought straight from the case.

"I love the Ecuadorian roses," she says. "They are the longest lasting and they open as roses are supposed to do — none of that dying off as a tight bud!"

Lusk's fresh-cut flower arrangements start at $20, Swaggerty says, and include at least three different kinds of blooms.

Helping customers find what they need and want is part of being a full-service shop, not just a grab-and-go refrigerator, she adds. "It's the nature of the business. People come in, they may not really know what they want, and you have to ask questions to help them match up their needs with what they want to or can spend," she explains. "For someone buying flowers for someone else, I'll ask things like, 'Does she have a favorite flower?' or 'What's his favorite color?' Then I'll start making suggestions and put something together. I've learned to appreciate every color of the spectrum — even orange!"

Shirey chimes in on Swaggerty's touch with color. "She puts things together you'd never think would go together, and gets beautiful results," he says.

The creative aspect of flower arranging, getting to know her customers and the variety of her work keep her busy and enthused, Swaggerty says. "It's never the same from day to day, and I love that."

There is also an aspect of ministry to her work, she says, "especially when there's a death. You have to be there and be really sensitive to the person's needs."



Along with fresh flowers, Lusk does gift baskets in any theme and sells a wide range of gifts, from cuddly teddy bears to a violin that plays in tune, no matter what strings you hit, from satiny fruits to elegant porcelain-faced dolls.

"We have items in a wide range of prices, for any age and both genders," Swaggerty says. "Doyle has brought in a man's touch, so there are wonderful masculine gifts, too."

Lusk is the exclusive local dealer for the Namb fine gift line of its crystal, porcelain and silver items. The shop keeps a variety of Namb gifts on display, and Lusk can fill special orders in three business days, she says.

The shop offers a large array of party items, and Swaggerty and Shirey offer advice on decorating for parties large and small. "We have a huge amount of party line supplies. We don't even have the room to display them here!" she says with a laugh. "But we can suggest what someone needs for their room, and we loan things and sell them, too."

Swaggerty says her business also is here to provide service to the community and she enjoys giving support to local businesses, groups and churches.

"We will decorate the space for them," she says. "We'll loan them items they need for their event. We want to do anything we can to help make their event beautiful and a success."

"Often they don't know just what they want or need," Shirey puts in.

"But helping them figure it out and showing them what's possible, that's just so much fun!" Swaggerty says.



Lusk Flowers, 1303 N. Pope St., Silver City, 538-5397.

 



Buffalo Bar Update

Last month, Business Exposure raised something of a kerfuffle when we broke the news that the Buffalo Bar in Silver City was being sold. While statements from self-described purchaser Mike Brinton and the bar's long-time owner Sam Trujillo differ, both sides have made statements that show a deal is, in fact, in the works if not yet closed. Brinton says he regrets making the error of "speaking too soon," as he'd signed a non-disclosure agreement regarding the deal. But in the excitement of talking with Business Exposure about his renovations on the property — about which he and his architect had already had a meeting with the Silver City Planning and Zoning Office — he confirmed unequivocally that he had "bought the Buffalo." For his part, Trujillo says the news of the potential sale leaking out has caused many a headache for him, with bartenders and customers crying, the Mimbres Region Arts Council concerned over the Beer Garden licensing the Buffalo provides for the MRAC's Blues Festival, and liquor suppliers calling the bar to get specific dates of change in ownership. "It's been a nightmare for me!" Trujillo exclaims. He does admit having gone through three or four purchase agreements and a non-disclosure agreement, but adds, "To me, it's not a sale until when I have the money in my hand. All I can tell you is that I haven't sold, and the things, the situations that are here now, it could be three months from now, maybe four months before I really sell it." Pressed on his semantics, Trujillo concedes he is "definitely thinking about selling, maybe planning it now," and adds, "I'm getting too old, and that's the major thing, you know?"



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