Beloved Montrose Flower Shop to Grow and Expand With Son in Charge — A Floral Family’s Next Generation
In Bloom With Thomas McCoolBY Shelby Hodge // 04.29.21
Thomas McCool has taken over In Bloom Inc., the River Oaks favorite florist that his father, Scott McCool, launched 31 years ago. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
On any given day In Bloom Inc. in the heart of Montrose is filled with magnificent arrangements ready for delivery across the city. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Elaborate florals fill the In Bloom Inc. portfolio of lavish designs. (In Bloom Inc. Photo)
Massive bouquets of flowers from In Bloom Inc. (In Bloom Inc. Photo)
The bold palette for this In Bloom Inc. arrangement is created from vivid orchids and bold ranunculus and roses. (In Bloom Inc. photo)
The In Bloom Inc. floral arrangement recalls an Old Masers painting. (In Bloom Inc. photo)
Bushels of fresh flowers of all varieties arrive at In Bloom Inc. every Monday and Wednesday. (In Bloom Inc. photo)
Bushels of fresh flowers of all varieties arrive at In Bloom Inc. every Monday and Wednesday. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Second generation florist Thomas McCool runs the show at In Bloom Inc. along with his two dogs that are always at his side. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Thomas McCool never imagined that he would end up in the florist business even though his father, Scott McCool, was founder of one of Houston’s most prominent houses of floral design, In Bloom Inc. The younger McCool had studied economics and philosophy in college. He shoots competitively. And until a recent injury he was heavy into Brazilian jiu jitsu.
The fine art of floral arranging? It didn’t compute.
Sure, he grew up in the shop at 918 Fairview in the heart of Montrose and he spent holidays and summers doing odds and ends there, moving buckets, packing boxes, delivering flowers. But it wasn’t until an epiphany six years ago, that his interests focused on what he matter of factly calls “a flower shop.”
“I never thought I would be here,” he tells PaperCity. “But I learned to weld from Dad. I learned to make furniture from Dad. And then one day I ended up making an arrangement and it was like ‘Oh it’s just kind of the same thing’ and I was trying to do it in a more machismo way . . . I kind of fell in love with it.”
From that day, Scott slowly began turning over responsibility to Thomas, who took full rein of In Bloom two years ago. The 31-year-old is honoring In Bloom’s three decades of superlative floral tradition while giving the business a gentle update. He likes to call it In Bloom Inc. 2.0.
On a recent afternoon, he took us through the unimposing “flower shop” that from curbside looks like a quaint operation but in reality is a business that takes up almost a half block. Thomas explains that he isn’t changing the roots of the business, merely expanding on what is already so well done. Part of that growth is the hope of converting the 5,000 square foot warehouse that backs up to the shop and the backyard gardens into an event space. Think rustic warehouse, a blank canvas that can be transformed into something as elaborate or as simple as desired.
His hope is to hold the shop’s annual party there in October and have the warehouse ready for rentals by early 2022.
“I appreciate what he did before hand. That’s like the biggest thing, the importance of what the shop has been,” Thomas says of his father. “I don’t want to lose touch with that. Having respect for what my dad did, what he made has always been the biggest thing to me. But I still have the confidence to punch outside those bounds — slightly.”
The Personal Touch
As with his father, Thomas is a people person, gregarious and helpful, developing and continuing relationships, many of whom are second if not third generation River Oaks clients. He keeps a computer list of birthdays and anniversaries in order to remind forgetful husbands and beaus. Friends pop in regularly savoring the warmth of the workshop filled with fragrant flowers. These friendships not only encourage business but also provide a strong platform for floral design.
Customers are so at ease with In Bloom that they will make a pilgrimage on Mondays and Wednesdays when they know the floral deliveries come in. They will often select their favorite flowers from the shop’s four walk-in coolers and leave the creative assembly up to the In Bloom staff, each of whom has been a part of the team for many years. Thomas suggests customers select their three favorite flowers and leave the rest up to the designers.
“You build relationships, develop trust. It’s my job to know what it is and listen to you well enough to figure what you want, but you don’t necessarily have the vocabulary to describe it perfectly,” he explains. “So I have to interpret it and use my knowledge to deliver it to you. It’s a very symbiotic relationship.”
That includes knowing the house as well as the customer. Thomas says that the style of the house, the architecture, and the scale required for a certain location work as design determinants. “Location, location, location,” he muses.
Thomas’ advice extends beyond mere floral design. Following the recent marriage of a friend, he offered valuable advice for the groom.
“Little things matter a lot more. You can come in and grab a few little things,” he advises. “Valentine’s Day will always be overly expensive. Do something else besides flowers. But don’t forget to do big flowers every now and then. You need to do things consistently. That’s the way it pays off.”
Loving the Challenge
Problem solving, dealing with chaos, thinking outside of the box — we don’t ordinarily associate those challenges with the florist business but they are realities that the McCools and other flower ships regularly face.
“I’ve grown up around chaos especially with events,” Thomas says. “Our product dies every week. Something might not make a truck. The bride has to have it. It is pure bliss of chaos and I thrive in it. I love it. If my back is up against the wall, I’m super happy. Because all you can do is work, all you can do is figure something out there is no time for anything else.”
Thomas says that he appreciates the medium— flowers. But his real joy comes in the creativity required for problem solving. And he isn’t flying solo on the challenges.
Speaking of his father, Thomas says, “Having him to rely back on, that he can problem-solve outside of the box, that he has that large history of answers, it gives you a confidence.”