Click here to download the Bloomin' News story
about our Flower District (published May 2009)
Two large wholesale
flower markets and several storefront tenants
comprise the core of the original Los Angeles Flower District, America's
largest wholesale flower district. (The District does not
include the smaller flower malls on San Pedro and Eighth streets.) The
Flower District's history dates back
to the early 1900s.
History: Flowers to America from The Colorful Land of
climate of Southern California
In the 1800s, expansive open areas along the Southern California coast and around Los Angeles enjoyed the natural color and beauty of native grasses and wild flowers. The Los Angeles Coastal Prairie,
a large coastal area near the El Segundo dunes, featured vernal pools and marshes and was carpeted with spectacular displays of wildflowers. Indian paintbrush, mustard, lupine, poppies, verbena and other flowers formed a kaleidoscope of color that surprised and delighted residents and tourists alike. The sweet moisture of evening and morning coastal fog intermingled with daily rations of sunlight to create a nurturing, year-‘round semi-tropical growing environment where plants and flowers would flourish.
Spectacular growth of the Los Angeles area
In the 1800s, the great diversity and industry that characterizes Southern California today were beginning in earnest, including agricultural enterprises on the fringes of Los Angeles. Orange groves and dairy farms were common. Within the city’s limits (and very near today’s Flower District), the garment and fashion districts were putting down their roots. A second rail line, built between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, New Mexico, brought in thousands of new residents and made it possible for California products to reach Eastern markets quickly. In 1890, Edwin Earl invented the refrigerated railcar and the first Tournament of Roses Parade was held in Pasadena. In 1892, Edward L. Doheny discovered oil in Los Angeles. By this time, the population of Los Angeles had passed the 50,000 mark.
Setting the pace of floriculture in California
In 1892, a handful of Japanese American farmers began planting and cultivating flowers in fields near Santa Monica and south of the fast-growing city of Los Angeles. Only a few Japanese Americans lived in Southern California at the time (possibly less than 100), with the greatest population residing in the northern part of the state, since San Francisco was the main port of entry. They made an impact upon the entire California flower industry that would set
its pace for the future.
Above left, the Southern
California Flower Market in the 1920s.
On the right, the Los Angeles Flower Market of the American
Florists' Exchange, around 1959.
Beginning the Los Angeles Flower
Markets & Flower District
In 1913, the Japanese flower growers and sellers started the Southern California
Flower Market* just a few blocks northwest of its current location.
That market moved in 1923 to the 700 block of South Wall Street, where it resides today.
Around 1917, the American Florists' Exchange was organized by a handful of
European immigrants working as flower farmers and wholesalers. Incorporating
in January, 1921 as the American Florists' Exchange dba Los Angeles
Flower Market*, they moved from their first location at Fifth and Winston
streets to a former garage on Wall Street, right across the street
from the "Japanese market" (Southern California Flower Market). The 700 block of
Street became the core of today's Los Angeles Flower District and the "grand
central" of trading between the wholesalers, shippers, florists and
flower farmers, who trucked their blooms fresh from the fields to market
The history of the American Florists' Exchange dba Los Angeles
Flower Market is documented in its 2008 hardback pictorial book,
Sending Flowers to America: Stories of the Los Angeles Flower
Market and the People Who Built an American Floral Industry.
Please visit our Book page for details. The history of the Southern
California Flower Market is documented in its 2004 hardbound book
titled, A Scent of Flowers, by Naomi Hirahara, and can
be purchased by contacting the SCFM (see our
Contact page or Book page).
William Mulholland’s California Aqueduct had ushered its first precious
gallons of water to Los Angeles, from 200 miles north, in 1913, paving the way
for unprecedented growth of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The
Los Angeles area’s floriculture industry was well underway, nurtured by
dedicated families, smart business leaders and hard workers. Japanese American
entrepreneurs followed a vertical chain concept that resulted in many
essential operations – from farming to shipping to retail sales – being
performed by Japanese American businesses from the beginning to the end of the
supply chain. Other families, including many Latinos, Greeks, Italians,
Dutch and other Europeans, grew flowers at
first on small plots of ground and as the years went by, expanded and passed
their businesses from generation to generation. Some of today's leaders in the
floriculture industry started with the small land parcels and flower stands of
Photo, left: Tike and Dan Karavas in
the Karavas family flower field in Redondo Beach, early
the floriculture industry that evolved from the small farms and markets
of Los Angeles, one thing was certain: Californians supplied the
entire nation with its cut, fresh flowers for many decades.
During the icy cold and snowy winters, and during the off seasons for
certain flowers in various regions of the United States, roses,
carnations, gladiolas, chrysanthemums and many other fresh blooms were
harvested, packaged and shipped daily from Southern California to fill
the orders of florists from coast to coast. Even today, old-time
wholesalers in Texas, Michigan and eastern states recall ordering from
their California wholesalers.
Photo, right: Florists
await the ringing of the 6:30 a.m.
opening bell at the Los Angeles Flower Market.
In the 1960s, with great advances in air transportation and the advent
of refrigerated trucks, fresh flowers began to be imported from other
countries to the United States. Adding to the increasing demand for
imports was the urbanization of the Southern California farming areas,
which were quickly evolving into housing tracts and shopping centers.
Finally, adding to the challenges faced by retail florists, supermarkets
and large discount chains began selling fresh flowers. Suddenly, driving
down a country road past flower and citrus farms was but a memory. Los
Angeles area flower wholesalers now ordered their cut flowers from
foreign growers. Wholesalers and local growers made research trips to
South America and Holland, to see for themselves the efficiencies of the
farms there. Today's wholesalers still order from California growers the
specialty blooms (peonies, tea roses, etc.) desired for unique or custom
arrangements; and growers like Mellano & Company, which operates The
Flower Fields at Carlsbad, still grow a wealth of beautiful blooms
for American florists and event decorators. But most wholesalers import
the flowers they sell.
Unlike flower districts in many large cities (New
York, San Francisco), the Los Angeles Flower District has grown
to become the largest wholesale flower district in the United
States. The two historic flower markets that comprise its core,
situated between Seventh and Eighth streets on Wall Street, are
now surrounded by dozens of independently owned wholesale and
retail florists, floral supplies and floral related storefront
shops and small flower malls.
Although they contribute to the
overall economy and health of the business area, most of these
stores are not enrolled badge-holding members of the official
Los Angeles Flower District.
We encourage you to visit the
real Los Angeles Flower District and enjoy the spacious,
flower-bedecked aisles of two historic flower markets and the
suppliers and wholesalers of Wall Street. Please visit our
list of tenants and be sure to
contact us if you would like more
information. We'd love to see you at the District*!
order your copies of:
Sending Flowers to America
ISBN 978-0-9798285-0-8, retail $35 - Contact Us
Coffee table pictorial hardbound history of the American Florists'
Exchange dba Los Angeles Flower Market,
by Peggi Ridgway and Jan Works, ties the history of the broader Los
Angeles area and Southern California in with the growth of the flower
industry. Includes 350-plus photos, profiles of families and flower
industry pioneers. To order - visit the Los Angeles Flower Market or the
Book page on our website.
A Scent of Flowers,
Pictorial hardbound history of the Southern California Flower Market
started by the Japanese farmers and wholesalers in the early 1900s. By
Naomi Hirahara. Available from the Southern California Flower
Market - visit our Contact page.
*The Los Angeles Flower Market, the
Southern California Flower Market and
the Los Angeles Flower District are sometimes collectively referred to as the "Los
Angeles Flower Mart."