If discerning early in life the professional aspiration that will become a life-long occupation is the truest predictor of a successful entrepreneur, Jeff Fritz has much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving holiday.
He also has a prestigious new award to show for it.
Owner of the thriving Flowers on 14th storefront northwest Washington business, Fritz began working as a floral designer at the age of 15 while a high school student in nearby Westminster, Md. Operating out of his childhood home after class and on weekends, he quickly became the floral wunderkind of the area.
Decades of delight in, and dedication to, his chosen creative craft recently resulted in his business earning the distinction of being named a Top 100 florist in the world among more than 40,000 retailers by industry leader FTD.
Eye-catching window displays distinguish the shop’s retail facade at 1712 14th Street, N.W., often prompting smiles on passerby faces. Less than three blocks south of the U Street neighborhood namesake companion to Logan Circle in one of the District’s most rapidly developing residential and commercial areas, the business was not-so-long-ago a lonely oasis in a dilapidated zone.
Following a career as a floral designer in the employ of others, first in his home state and later in both Miami and D.C., Fritz opened his own business a few doors up the street from his current location in September 2001. He soon developed a large customer base within the gay community, also relying on wedding and special event orders, holiday wholesale contracting, and funeral and corporate accounts to round out revenue.
There weren’t many shoppers strolling the now vibrant corridor in those early days. Fondly recalling the eventual walk-in customer passing through the doorway several years later – emblematic of the neighborhood transition that would increasingly take root – Fritz references the framed currency of that initial street-generated purchase. Responsive to increasing pedestrian traffic, the window displays have become even more elaborate, and enjoyed, over time.
Expanding to three times the space when moving to its current 2,250 square-foot location nearly three years ago, the business has continued to grow. Ten employees and contractors assist in fulfilling orders in the fragrant environ of a narrow warehouse-loft-style open interior space. Consistent with the freelance business moniker “Friendly Flowers” of his youth, the personable staff of Fritz’s current operation ensures many loyal customers.
Like most local entrepreneurs, Fritz is quick to detail how difficult and discouraging a place D.C. is to operate a small business. He suggests that the absence of private sector business ownership experience among District elected officials is a primary reason that local policies result in the city’s perennial rating as the nation’s most business unfriendly jurisdiction.
A legacy contribution to a neighborhood’s revitalization while engendering the affection of a community wilts the operating hardships and burdens of a blooming business.
This weekend, national “Small Business Saturday” is an opportunity to celebrate local commerce and express appreciation for the every-day dedication and hard work of business operators like Jeff Fritz.
Mark Lee is a local small business manager and long-time community business advocate. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.