Florist Ferrari moves into historic Farmers Exchange building

It’s been 75 years since Dave Ferrari first opened “Ferrari the Flower Shop” on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz.

It was 1946, just after the end of World War II, and the shop quickly gained a reputation for its quality flowers, window displays and friendly customer service.

Over its long history, Ferrari Florist, as it is now known, has persisted and remained important in the lives of Santa Cruz County customers.

“They’re all so loyal,” says Brian Piazza, who now owns the store with his wife Marilyn Piazza. “They go gaga over Ferrari. They all have stories to tell, historical stories, long before I got involved.

The Piazzas bought the longtime business in 2016 after it went up for sale. They knew of her heritage, and the shop had arranged the flowers for their own wedding over three decades ago.

Since becoming owners, Brian and Marilyn have expanded Ferrari’s reach by opening branches in Scotts Valley and Watsonville. The stores mainly sell locally grown flowers and plants, and they also aim to be eco-friendly, working with local organizations to create arrangements to attract butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

Brian says the 75th anniversary was “surreal”.

“We’re trying to figure it out,” he says. “Owning a business that’s been around for so long…it’s amazing.”

The Piazzas are in the process of relocating and expanding their current flagship operation from Santa Cruz on Soquel Avenue to the 100-year-old Farmers Exchange Building on River Street. Brian says he was walking past the iconic building when he noticed it was available.

“We called the owner, he said they had gone through a great selection of possible businesses,” he says. “There were potty stores, mattress stores, franchises, chains. But they were very selective about who went.

When Brian offered to bring Ferrari, the landlord called the building owner, who was on board immediately.

“Apparently the owner told them, ‘Do whatever it takes to get Ferrari Florist in, that’s exactly what we want,'” he said. “It was good. We didn’t have to fight too much for it.

The large red building, located next to Patagonia, is triple the space of the old store. Brian says the Soquel Avenue space is too small to meet current demand and can be frustrating for employees who have to navigate a cramped back room.

“It’s also tucked away on a blind side of the street,” he says. “No one can really see us.”

The new store, which held its soft open on February 28, will eventually include everything from a wedding/event consultation area to a plant and garden store similar to that of their store in Watsonville. They will also hold classes in the store, on flower arranging and planting succulents. An ADA-accessible Dutch door will serve as a window for curbside pickup.

The soft opening will soon be followed by a grand opening and a possible 75th anniversary celebration in the spring. The Piazzas emerge from the bustle of Valentine’s Day, one of the busiest times of the year for florists.

“It’s really exciting,” says Brian. “This company has always been focused on our customers. Their enthusiasm is what motivates us. It’s not about monetizing things, it’s about demand. They want more.

Despite ongoing challenges, such as nationwide labor shortages, supply chain issues and high costs, Brian says they are excited to move forward with the expansion.

“Santa Cruz had a lot of bumps and bruises,” he says. “A lot of businesses are moving. For me, though, we’re investing in this community with this move. We’re one of the originals. So we’re going to stay here.

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