September 19, 2011

Milestones Icon: Lafayette Florist

Lafayette Florist founders Yasutaro and his wife Kumiko (Kate) Yoshihara managed to overcome a four-year detour to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II to build the foundation for their more than 50-year-old business.

The Yoshiharas ran a successful lettuce and produce stand in California for several years before the United States entered World War II in 1941.

After the war started, the couple and their children were moved from California to Camp Amache, a Japanese-American internment camp in southeastern Colorado. When the family was released from the camp at the end of the war in 1945, they decided to stay in Colorado and go back to what they knew best – raising and selling lettuce and produce.

With $7,000 in cash that Kate had hidden in a fruit jar before the family was sent to the camp, the couple bought a farm in Brighton. Over the next few years, the business did well, and the couple decided to expand. While driving through Lafayette one day in 1949, they saw a place they thought would be perfect for a produce stand, next to an existing flower shop. The Lafayette Florist and Greenhouses at 600 S. Public Road has been operating ever since.

Second-generation owners Gene and Evelyn Yoshihara took over the operation in 1960. Over the years, the existing vegetable farm was replaced by modern greenhouse facilities, and Lafayette Florist became a major cut-flower producer.

Yasutaro Yoshihara passed away in 1979, but Kate continued to work in the family business until 2003. In 1994, she was inducted into the Boulder County Business Hall of Fame, a regional recognition for business owners.

A remodel in 2000 brought the store up to modern standards. The family received the first Retail Florist of the Year Award ever to be awarded in 2003, a national honor sponsored by floral industry celebrations.

Before Kate Yoshihara passed away on April 15, 2006, she took great pleasure in spending time with her five children, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

The company celebrated 50 years in business in 2009.

Today, the Yoshiharas’ daughter, Lori Wheat, is the merchandise and marketing director of Lafayette Florist. Lori’s husband, Brian, is chief executive officer. Daughter Sandi Yoshihara-Sniff is florist manager, and her husband, Craig Sniff, is head grower.

The staff now numbers 40 employees, and the business includes a two-floor gift showroom and 70,000-square-foot garden center.

Lafayette Florist founders Yasutaro and his wife Kumiko (Kate) Yoshihara managed to overcome a four-year detour to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II to build the foundation for their more than 50-year-old business.

The Yoshiharas ran a successful lettuce and produce stand in California for several years before the United States entered World War II in 1941.

After the war started, the couple and their children were moved from California to Camp Amache, a Japanese-American internment camp in southeastern Colorado. When the family was released from the camp at the end of the war in 1945, they decided to stay…

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