When Petaluma's Nick Neve was in second grade he was asked the usual question about what he wanted to be when he grew up. That was easy, he says. He wanted to be a flower grower like his father, grandfather and uncles. He could have said like his great grandfather too, but being only 7 he didn't know the complete history of the family flower business.
Today, Neve, 29, a fourth generation flower grower, and his brother, Chris, 26, along with their father Lou Neve, run the family's Neve Bros. flower business in Petaluma, producing roses and 20 other flower varieties on two ranches spread over 120 acres. It's not only a thriving agricultural business but a family legacy and way-of-life that have made the Neve name a familiar and integral part of the floral trade in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"Growing flowers for the Bay Area market is something I always wanted to do and want to continue to do. It's part of who I am," says Nick, who oversees the growing operations in the green houses on Bodega Avenue where Neve flowers have flourished for nearly a half century. It's a sentiment shared by his brother Chris, who spends a lot of his time at a desk filling orders for roses and other flowers that will decorate swank San Francisco hotels or high-society weddings in Wine Country.
The Neves are always attuned to the calendar and the upcoming holiday, whatever it may be, because holidays bolster flower sales, some more than others. Mother's Day is the biggest market for fresh flowers, followed by Valentine's Day. Easter is big too.
The Neves say Mother's Day is a huge market for fresh flowers of all kinds and colors. While not everyone has a sweetheart on Valentine's Day, everyone of a certain age has a mother or a mother figure in their life. Once you add grandmothers, a favorite auntie and other maternal role models the market for flowers explodes in mid-May.
For a half century, the Neve name has been synonymous for quality roses, big long-stemmed beauties grown hydroponically in green houses on the family's 30 acre farm on Bodega Avenue outside of Petaluma. The Neve brothers' grandfather, Giovanni Neve, established the Petaluma rose growing operation in 1967 after relocating the family rose business from Colma where it started in the early 1900's.
The Neve's longevity is a rarity for a family business, especially one as competitively cut-throat as flower growing. Studies show that only 30% of family businesses survive their founders and make it to the second generation.