Celebrating Hamptons Celebrities: Jim McCann, 1-800-Flowers
He qualifies for “Celebrating Hamptons Celebrities” because his persona has been a fixture for many years in an abundance of television commercials, print media advertising and business leadership news media interviews.
“About 30 years ago we began renting in Quiogue for five years before deciding to buy a home there,” explains 1-800-Flowers.com Chairman Jim McCann. “So many of our family and friends are there. With all of the places where I have traveled—there is no finer place in the summer months than eastern Long Island. Where we are located is easy to get to…if we were further east we would probably use our house less. We go back-and-forth with ease and convenience. If we need to get back to NYC or Nassau for an event, we can attend it and come right back out.”
The Quiogue second home was one of the first fruits of his prosperity through his early success with his flowers enterprise.
“After graduating from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, I felt I had found my niche working for a Queens non-profit for emotionally disturbed children,” McCann recollects. “My wife, Marylou and I, married young and began our family. So I needed to earn extra income. Bartending on weekends on NYC’s upper east side, I made friends with a customer who owned a flower shop across the street.” Jim asked if he could work there prior to his bartending shift. He was intrigued by taking care of flowers, learning how to cut them, arrange them, and sell them.
After a short period of time, Jim became the owner of the store! He remained employed at the nonprofit organization for eight years before making his complete transition as a florist. As 800 phone numbers were beginning to become popular, McCann was savvy to acquire a business which owned 800Flowers, which he later expanded to 1800flowers.com to embrace online e-commerce. “I analyzed how most of our customers were placing orders by phone, rarely visiting our shop, but we still had a relationship with them. 800flowers was so easy for them to remember,” McCann explains.
In what has become a ritual, this period leading up May 9, Mother’s Day finds McCann (with other family members who work at the company) disciplined, focused “at their desks” to maximize sales for the #1 floral, plant day of the calendar. “This year, the most popular is an azalea which offers a flower, and at the same time which can be planted in Mom’s garden. Many think Valentine’s Day is the biggest—but Mother’s Day does nearly three times the business—there are many more moms than sweethearts!” McCann muses.
“Technology had a major positive impact on quality, variety, and availability of flower and plants,” he describes. “When I started there were three or four colors of roses available. Now we might have 25 at any given time! Tulips used to be seasonal and now they are grown all year round. And the longevity of these products is so much better.”
McCann says that while flowers and plants remain the flagship product of his public corporation—they have become less in proportion to overall sales, as 1800flowers.com has acquired more food business units, everything from chocolate, to fruits, to muffins, to popcorn. “Food is now about 60% of our sales volume with flowers and plants being 40%.” McCann says that beyond flowers “the majority of our customers order from several of our brands. It has been important to follow the interests of our customers and add more products along the way.”
He has volunteered for many community service and non-profit organizations through his career including board memberships at NYU Langone Health and Hofstra University. One organization he has helped to establish where he takes a lot of pride in its mission and growth is Smile Farms (smilefarms.org). “With eight campuses so far, it has become a meaningful source of vocations and employment for adults with disabilities who are growing flowers and plants, along with foods like peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, and other fruits and vegetables.”
Jim McCann, who also resides in Flower Hill, Manhasset, is a minority owner of the New York Mets.