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ImageFlowers, food, and gifts are a triple whammy, especially in the holiday season when you may not know what to give.  Put it in a basket and you have the perfect gift.  "It's a good gift for the person you can't come up with something for," says Ithaca Flower Shop owner Doug Gumaer.  "Everybody likes food."

Ithaca Flower Shop has been part of the Tompkins County landscape for 32 years.  While flowers remain the staple of the business, Gumaer has been emphasizing the gift side of the business since they bought the shop four years ago.  The front room of the Ithaca Shopping Plaza storefront is cluttered but homey with gifts of all kinds.


That is starting to pay off this year.  The shop has sold more giftware this season than they have in past years.  And by combining it with the flower business they are increasing their bottom line.  Walk-in business only accounts for 20% to 30% of the shop's business, but Gumaer wants people who come for flowers to find other things they want.  "That's our hope, to get customers to impulse buy gifts while buying flowers," he says.  "Walk-in is a segment of the business that is a fun part of the business.  It's something I would like to do more of, but it's not a major percentage."

The larger part is phone and Internet orders, and the shop's Web site has countless flower arrangements and gifts that can be purchased on the site or by phone.  It features a 'Call Me Now' feature in which customers can request to be called.  Deliveries go to Ithaca, Newfield, Trumansburg, Lansing, Brooktondale, Slaterville, Cornell University, Ithaca College, local funeral homes, apartments, elderly housing, and Cayuga Medical Center.


Gumaer has been involved with flowers since childhood.  An Ithaca native, his grandfather was a plant pathology professor at Cornell.  "My grandparents had unbelievable gardens in Ellis Hollow," he says.  "We would do dried flower arrangements for the Ellis Hollow Fair from the time I was five years old.  Then in 4H I did a lot more flower arranging.  When I was in high school I came in touch with a florist in Lockport, New York, who really inspired me to make it my career goal."

His family moved to Middleport, New York when he was 12, but he came back in Ithaca to earn his degree in Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture at Cornell.  While there he worked at a flower shop.  After graduation he moved to the Boston area where he worked at flower shops in Cambridge, Newton, and Waltham.  But he was destined to stay in Ithaca.

The shop where he had worked here went up for sale, and when he called to get tax forms from the previous year the owners asked if he was interested.  That brought him back here.  When the sale didn't work out he stayed, first working at The Flower Basket, then at Michaleen's for eight years, and at Ithaca Flower Shop for seven years before becoming its owner.


The major change was to get out of the silk flower business and into gifts and gourmet foods.  "We purchased the shop four years ago," Gumaer  says.  "My wife Pat had worked at people's Pottery many years ago so we had some background in giftware.  We decided to expand into that, offer some nicer things, and try to increase the foot traffic."

Gourmet products include shrimp kits, pecan pie in a jar, a variety of chocolates and pestos.  The shop sells a lot of food baskets.  Gifts are varied and interesting, including candlesticks, Ithaca's Gorges Chocolates, art glass, candles, Tiffany lamps, and tavern puzzles, among many more.

The shop is bursting at the seams, but Gumaer has mixed feelings about expanding.  He loves the store's location and would be hesitant to move unless more space opened up in the same shopping center.

"If a space became available that was a little bigger I'd have to consider it," he says.  "If we could knock out a wall that would be a wonderful way to grow.  The location here is great.  The abundance of free parking and the proximity to a lot of other commerce is great."

Doug Gumaer

Even without more space Gumaer says the growth area is in gifts.  "When we bought it we went into the gift market," he says.  "We're pushing that and growing that.  I think the flower business is fairly stable, and I don't think there is a lot of potential for fantastic growth.  We certainly see steady increase from year to year."

In addition to the Gumaers, the shop employs a full time front counter person, one full time and one part time delivery driver, and a full time designer.  The shop certainly seems like a fulfillment of his destiny.

"I love having the ability to express myself creatively, as well as working with customers," he says.  "There are so many interesting and unique people out there.  They are really fun to get to know."

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