Meet Brian J. Wheat. The “Flower Guy”, you wouldn’t expect to be the “Flower Guy.” He’s poured concrete, baled hale, combat support group in the US Air Force, been a boxer and champion arm wrestler and thought he might want to be a veterinarian. In 1984, he became a CSU Master Gardener. Since then, he has spread his roots into blogs, music, cartoons, keynote speaking, writing magazine articles and has been a voice for small businesses through Congressional Action Days in Washington DC for over 25 years. A life path that certainly demonstrates one of his favorite mantras, “take off your blinders and be open to life’s possibilities.”
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
A: I am a proud US Air Force veteran and a VFW Auxiliary member. I’m an art guy and cartoonist (check out Bloom ‘toons on Facebook). I love playing guitar. I am a Rotarian, served as past-president, though not currently active. But most people know me as the Chief Executive and owner of Lafayette Florist, Gift Shop and Garden Center.
Q: What inspired you or led you to your current career?
A: There is a lot of history to Lafayette Florist. It’s a deep family story that I wanted to be a part of. It all started in 1949 with Yasutaro and Kumiko “Kate” Yoshihara and their children. After being released from a Japanese-American relocation camp at Amache in southern Colorado, they started a fruit and vegetable business in the heart of Old Town Lafayette, Colorado. There eldest son, Gene Yoshihara is my father-in-law. After serving in the US Navy, he came back to Lafayette. He and his wife, Evelyn worked hard to raise a family and build the business. Evelyn ran the florist and Gene grew carnations in the greenhouse. Now it was my turn. My in-law’s gave me the chance to run Lafayette Florist. With my love for plants, I added a garden center.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Louisville or Lafayette, and what do you love there?
A: You can tell I’ve been in Lafayette for a long time. My old favorites were La Familia, The Plum Tree and Blue Parrot. Today, we have so many great choices. One night we can enjoy hot chicken and cold beer from The Post Brewery, the next we can have great Chinese take-out from Ting’s and for date night we might go to Teocalli.
Q: How long have you lived or worked in Louisville or Lafayette?
A: 37 years!
Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in Louisville or Lafayette?
A: The great part about being in a small town is the people. You become so close – it’s like another family. From pioneers of Lafayette like Chuck Waneka and Gerry Morrell to visionaries like past city manager, Gary Klaphake. Old friends like Graig Anspach who owns the family jewelry store down the road and new friends we meet every day.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? And why?
A: My wife and I were supposed to leave for Amsterdam next week and enjoy a Viking River cruise through the Rhine River ending in Switzerland. We were looking forward to great cuisine and relaxing. It’s now booked for the same time next year.
Q: What are you doing right now aside from being the CEO?
A: I’m doing video blogs for my industry and customers about plants, flowers, gardening techniques and offering some expert advice from someone who’s local.
Q: What is your favorite movie OR what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?
A: We drove to the drive-in theater a couple miles from my house in Central Illinois where I was excited to see John Wayne in True Grit. From the early 80’s, there are three top comedies of all time for a guy my age – Animal House, Stripes and Caddy Shack. My other favorites are Saving Private Ryan and Sweet Home Alabama.
Q: What advice would you give a crowd of people?
A: Leave things better than you found them.
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
A: Travel to see the world and all of its flowers.
Q: What is your favorite music/ 3 bands you would like to see (dead or alive)?
A: I’m a lover of country music. Waylon, Willie and Johnny Cash – I’ve seen them all. My step-dad and Willie were friends.
Q: What current / former local business makes you the most nostalgic about Louisville or Lafayette?
A: Anspach’s Jewelry has been here almost as long as Lafayette Florist. Three generations of our family have wedding rings designed by Anspach’s. I walk into their store and chat with Graig and remember talking with his mom in the same spot.
Q: What is your favorite thing or something unique about Louisville or Lafayette?
A: Definitely the fun events that the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce puts on! Having hundreds of toppings at Oatmeal Festival. Peach smoothies at the Peach Festival. Fireworks at Waneka Lake. Local beer at the Brew Fest. There’s nothing better than living in a small town.
Q: What would the community benefit from today?
A: More flowers! Lafayette Florist has been planting the patio pots through Old Town Lafayette for decades. This year, due to COVID-19 there were not flowers. It just wasn’t the same. Since being in the floral industry, I’ve learned about the power of flowers – they really make a positive impact on how you feel. University research shows that flowers make people happy.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
A: Working a little less and enjoying life a little more — and hoping that our son Tanner takes Lafayette Florist to the hundred-year mark — only 29 years to go!
Q: (Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
A: I grew one inch in the last year. I had both of my knees replaced with titanium and I’m enjoying being pain free — and taller!
Q: What 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
A: Family, Relaxing and Comfort. Note from the interviewer: “If you know Brian, limiting him to three words is nearly impossible.”
Q: Choosing anyone dead or alive with whom would you love to have lunch? Why and where would you have lunch?
A: I would have lunch with my Dad. He unfortunately died when I was one year old. I would like to tell him how life turned out and I’d wished he been there. He was a fireman, fresh out of the Navy with four young children and he died at the age of 25 in a tragic car accident. I’d take him to The Post for beer and hot chicken.
Q: If you had a full time staff member that was fully paid for, who would you choose? Chef, Housekeeper, Driver, Coach, Physical Fitness Trainer, or Nanny?
A: I’d have a driver pick me up, take me to my personal trainer and have a chef prepare my meal when I got home. A guy can only dream!
Q: If you were cast into a major motion picture and had your choice of anyone to be your co-star, who would you choose?
A: It would be an old-time Western with Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, John Wayne and Kurt Russell would play my dad. Oh, and my love interest would be Jennifer Aniston.
Q: Will there be anything you would like to improve or add something in the community of Louisville or Lafayette?
A: More flowers in the community. I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to self-promote, but seriously the power of flowers make a difference. As the saying goes, it’s nice to see people slow down and stop and smell the roses. Also, I really enjoy the public art in Old Town Lafayette.