Two-dozen long-stem roses go for about half the price they would at a full-service florist. But it’s hard to put a price on the value of the family-owned business where they’re sold and its home in the north downtown San Antonio neighborhood.
Travis Wholesale Florist, a 12,000-square-foot warehouse stocked with spools of ribbons and buckets of fresh and artificial blooms in every color, has been supplying local florists, decorators, and budget-conscious boyfriends since well before it found a home at 240 W. Josephine St. in 1965.
Owner Pat Stanush said a man named Bud Rogers once owned the business that Stanush said might have started in 1952. Frank Stanush, a lifelong entrepreneur, bought Travis Wholesale in 1960 and moved it from a small rented space at the corner of Grayson and St. Mary’s streets five years later, razing some old homes to construct a new building.
The younger Stanush joined his father in the business in 1968, after a career as a stockbroker and a production engineer. “My dad requested I come – the manager had quit – and he requested I come out and help him,” he said.
Stanush, age 78, helped build the business that today carries a complete line of fresh-cut flowers and plants – from daisies and lilies to orchids and tulips, plus the fillers for arrangements and bouquets – as well as artificial varieties, ribbons, containers, and decor. Travis Wholesale gets shipments of flowers from South America via Miami twice a week.
“When I started here, almost all the fresh flowers came from California, and then they started raising flowers in Colombia and Ecuador,” Stanush said. “They can raise most anything any time.” In 1974, he flew to visit the growing operations there and was amazed at the rows of plastic greenhouses he could see from the air.
Travis Wholesale does $3 million a year in sales and employs 15 people. But the business isn’t without its hardships. Stanush said there are four businesses similar to his in San Antonio. “We have a lot of competition in town,” he said.
In 1976, the store burned to the ground. “It was absolutely devastating,” Stanush said. “We were out of business for probably 12 months.” He rebuilt and eventually the business flourished again.
Last year, the pandemic did more damage, hurting sales by what Stanush said was a “substantial amount.” And there isn’t much he can do about it. “We’re just hunkering down and hoping that the vaccine will make things whole again,” Stanush said.
Situated in a neighborhood of homes that date to the 1920s and a number of light industrial spaces, Travis Wholesale is within two blocks of the redeveloped Pearl Brewery and the booming development it’s attracted. As Travis Wholesale endures well into its seventh decade of operations, everything around it is giving way to rapid change and redevelopment.
“We’ve become sort of an odd area because of the Pearl,” Stanush said, adding that the incentives and tax abatements offered for center city housing developers has pushed up his own property taxes. “So while they get the gain, we get to pay for it.”
A number of residential and mixed-use developments have gone up in the area in recent years, are in the planning stages, or already underway.
The Borden Park project at 815 E. Ashby Place, now under construction, is a five-story multi-family housing development by Embrey Partners and Area Real Estate. The Lynd Company has plans for a 300-unit multi-family project where Materials Marketing was located at 120 W. Josephine St.
Sabot Development is working on a 10-story, mixed-use tower with 325 residential units at 1218 E. Euclid St. And Pearl developer Silver Ventures is planning an apartment project featuring 265 units on three acres at Elmira Street and Park Avenue.
Developers have made Stanush offers to buy his property – the .7-acre store lot and its three adjacent home lots on Grayson Street, including Yndo Commercial Real Estate, which built the Sojo Commons townhomes on West Grayson.
“I think it’s common knowledge that anybody who’s ever done anything in and around the Pearl has called on everybody down there,” Stephen Yndo said. Stanush has turned them all down.
“We just don’t want to sell,” he said. “We hope to stay here, but we may have to leave this area. I would like to stay here and I’m going to try.”
Longtime customer and florist Rick Lambert has been shopping at Travis Wholesale since 1971, stopping in sometimes twice a day for floral supplies. Lambert works from his home in the Alta Vista neighborhood.
“The good thing about coming over here is everybody’s so nice, really friendly,” Lambert said. “Pat has a lot of standing customers for years and years, and all the other people that work here seem to know everybody that walks in.
“As soon as you walk in, they know your name.”