Bloomaker to bring production in-house, ship nearly 1 million amaryllis bulbs

An aerial photo shows Bloomaker’s Augusta County greenhouses. The company recently announced it would bring production of amaryllis bulbs in-house at its Waynesboro-area facility for quality-control purposes.

Bloomaker, a U.S. market leader in amaryllis and potted tulips, will bring production of amaryllis bulbs in-house at its Waynesboro-area facility for quality-control purposes, according to an announcement from the company and Augusta County Economic Development & Tourism office.

By harvesting the bulbs in its greenhouses about 3 miles west of Waynesboro, Bloomaker will be able to control the timing of availability with a goal to make this traditionally winter flower available all year long, according to the statement. Previously, the company relied on third-party suppliers for sourcing, planting and harvesting, the statement said.

The company, on Kindig Road off U.S. 340, will source the bulbs from its farm in Peru, where half the world’s amaryllis crops are grown. The bulbs are shipped from Peru to Augusta County, where they are planted, harvested, packaged and shipped to retailers. This method allows Bloomaker to control the size, number of stems, and number of flowers of its amaryllis, according to the company.

Bloomaker, founded in 2002, built its Augusta County headquarters in 2010. The company anticipates its largest holiday season in history for its amaryllis blooms, the statement said.

The company will produce and ship nearly 1 million amaryllis bulbs to stores across the country, including Costco, Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Martin’s and Whole Foods, from its Waynesboro-area headquarters. According to Bloomaker, amaryllis sales have increased 425% in the past five years.

“The decision to bring the production of the amaryllis in-house was necessary for us to be able to offer the most beautiful and highest quality blooms to consumers,” Joep Paternostre, Bloomaker’s owner, said in a statement. “We also knew this decision would mean an expansion within and beyond our Waynesboro headquarters. Bloomaker has blossomed since locating in Augusta County, and our expansion plans will ensure we can continue to grow.”

Paternostre said that when he and his wife, Lillian, searched for an ideal location for their headquarters, they decided on the Shenandoah Valley because the location allowed the business to reach 75% of the U.S. and eastern Canada population within 24 hours.

“The location continues to serve us well in this capacity,” he said. “Consumer demand for amaryllis is driving the growth. Since Bloomaker is a market leader in amaryllis, shipping nearly 1 million bulbs from our headquarters in Augusta County this year, we are directly affected by the demand.”

A “multi-million dollar expansion” of its Augusta County facility, as well as a second operation on the West Coast, will be made to accommodate future growth, according to the statement. Paternostre said that because plans for the expansion are in the early stages, he could not give a more specific cost estimate of the investment.

The company said it employs more than 100 part-time, seasonal workers to assist in planting, harvesting, packaging and shipping its blooms. Paternostre said he did know how many new jobs might be created, although he said they would be spread across the two locations.

“We’re proud to see the continuous growth of Bloomaker, both here in Augusta County and worldwide,” Augusta County Supervisor Carolyn Bragg, who represents the South River District where Bloomaker is located said in the statement. “Bloomaker upholds the strong agricultural background of our region and brings its modern twist to both our agriculture industry and to the floral industry.”

The company developed and patented a new floral category with long-lasting flowers. Tulips and amaryllis are sold to consumers with seven to 11 bulbs intact on a pin tray placed within a vase. The technique results in flowers blooming in a period of 4 to 8 weeks.

In May 2015, Bloomaker finished a $2 million expansion, tripling the size of its greenhouse. At the time, company officials said they had plans to create 98 new full-time and seasonal jobs during the ensuing three years. The company also said then it expected to increase tulip and amaryllis sales to $25 million in the same time frame.

Assistance for the prior expansion came from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Augusta County. The Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund provided a $50,000 grant, which Augusta County matched.

The grant helped in the expansion of greenhouses and chillers and enabled a gas line extension to serve the facility. Bloomaker also worked with the Virginia Jobs Investment Program to secure funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities.

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