By Avery Rowlison, rowlison@grinnell.edu

Jody Fairchild-VanDeKrol (right) and sister Charity Fairchild-Kirsch work on a floral arrangement. Photo by Avery Rowlison.

Grinnell students may be familiar with Flowers on Fourth, the downtown business located at 813 4th Ave. What they might not know, however, is just how far beyond the city limits the store’s reputation extends.

Owner and Iowa Master Florist Jody Fairchild-VanDeKrol has won many awards for her arrangements, including the Iowa Florists’ Association’s Iowa Cup in 2008 and the Iowa Premier Cup in 2011. She also served as the past president of the Iowa Florists’ Association and a judge of the Iowa and Premier Cups. Her work has been featured on parade floats in the Rose Bowl and she is currently working to become a nationally accredited floral designer.

Fairchild-VanDeKrol stumbled upon her love for floristry in her high school horticulture class. A local florist visited the class for floriculture day to demonstrate how to make corsages and little arrangements, and Fairchild-VanDeKrol was immediately sold. After she graduated, she started arranging flowers for people’s weddings and other events using silk flowers. In 2000, she saw an ad in the paper for an opening at Flowers on Fourth.

“I brought in my horrible little pictures of the work I had done and I still got hired,” Fairchild-VanDeKrol said.

Flowers on Fourth was founded in 1994 by Cynthia Sherman, who became Jody Fairchild-VanDeKrol’s mentor when she came to work at the shop in 2000. Fairchild-VanDeKrol bought the shop from Sherman in 2008.

“She taught me everything I know,” Fairchild-VanDeKrol said.

Fairchild-VanDeKrol also got her sister, Charity Fairchild-Kirsch, into floristry. Fairchild-Kirsch, a single mom, started helping her sister in the shop on Saturdays to make a little extra money. Then she started taking vacation days to help out on busy holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

When she got laid off, Fairchild-VanDeKrol asked her to manage the store with her. Two years later, she still enjoys her job and even received a scholarship in 2012 to participate in the Iowa Master Florist program—a year of classes—which will allow her to become a certified Master Florist after she passes the exam this May.

“It’s turned into sort of a family affair around here,” Fairchild-VanDeKrol said. “[Fairchild-Kirsch] is super creative and it makes for a good energy.”

The Fairchild sisters are a great team, often brainstorming and collaborating on projects together.

“Jody and I have always worked really well together, planning events or whatever. She has an idea or a spark, and then I’ll have an idea, and then she’ll have another idea, and they all build on each other,” Fairchild-Kirsch said.

The Fairchild sisters begin a typical day at Flowers on Fourth by opening up the shop at 9 a.m. and getting all of the morning orders made and delivered. They then start working on big events such as weddings and holidays. Throughout the day, they maintain the general upkeep of the store by doing inventory, buying supplies, working with customers and, of course, cleaning.
“Floristry is a labor of love,” Fairchild-Kirsch said.

Fairchild-VanDeKrol agreed.

“You really have to have a passion for [floristry] because it’s often more than just bringing in the dollars,” Fairchild-VanDeKrol said.

Flowers on Fourth not only provides full-service floristry and delivery, but they also have green plants, blooming plants, a gift shop, tuxedo rental and a gourmet candy counter with chocolates they get from a chocolatier in Minnesota.

“We don’t claim to know anything about making chocolate; we just know what tastes good,” Fairchild-VanDeKrol said. “We have the best chocolate you will find in Grinnell.”

Grinnell College, the City, and the hospital are some of their biggest clients, but business usually varies from day to day and from event to event.

“For just a wedding, people can spend anywhere from $50 to $500. It just depends on the size of the wedding and what the client wants,” Fairchild-Kirsch said.

The very nature of the floristry business prevents that the Fairchilds from having a truly regular clientele. Nevertheless, they do have a very faithful customer base.

“We have a lot of people who come in whenever they need something, whether it’s a birthday, a wedding or a funeral,” Fairchild-Kirsch said.

In Fairchild-VanDeKrol’s mind, this has a lot to do with the customer service only a small business can offer.

“We try to go above and beyond. That’s something that we can give that, say, a big box store can’t give, is that personalized service,” Fairchild-VanDeKrol added.