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Bagoy’s: Finding Ways to Flourish

by Dec 30, 2020Magazine, Retail, Small Business

Photo 3193593 © JarenwicklundDreamstime.com

Chanda and Randy Mines share how they have contributed to the boutique’s 100-year legacy

There are just a handful of organizations that have a hundred-year history of serving Alaskans: among them are First National Bank Alaska, established in 1922; the Sisters of Providence, which started its mission here in 1902; and the Historic Anchorage Hotel, built in 1916. And working right alongside the banks, hospitals, and hotels is a florist—Bagoy’s—founded by John and Marie Bagoy in 1922.

Today it remains a family business, now run by Chanda and Randy Mines. The pair took over ownership and operations from Chanda’s parents in 1991. “My parents were looking to sell the business and retire, and I was at a point where I could come over and help them package it up, and I fell in love with it,” Chanda says.

She wasn’t always as keen on it, particularly when she was young.

“Did I like the business? No,” she laughs. “It was my parents’ company. As girls we kind of raised ourselves a lot of times because they were so busy with so much work… We did get pulled in and worked for them for holidays. I think my dad fired me at least a dozen times for different reasons, and so it was something I didn’t really look back at wanting to do.”

As an adult, she had both a better understanding of how demanding a floral business can be and a deeper appreciation of how it can affect the lives around her.

“Having opportunity in private enterprise—you get to write your own ticket. We don’t have to sit around and wait for a raise from the boss; we can work as hard as we want and the benefits are there. If we want to work harder, there’s more to get.”

—Randy Mines, Owner, Bagoy’s

A florist shop has a lot of up-front challenges, she says: it’s retail, it depends on sourcing and working with highly creative people, it requires close interactions with customers who are often going through profoundly emotional experiences, and it uses a highly perishable product. “You learn in college, or in life, that those are all difficult things [to manage for a business] and they’re all in one package.”

But eventually, a new perspective began to sprout. “I saw it as an adult with different eyes, I saw how beautiful it was.”

“I saw a lot of opportunity to grow it, even though it was an established business, and it was one of those feel-good businesses where the public really embraces it and everyone feels like it’s theirs: it belongs to them, it’s their Bagoy’s.”

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Now, after three decades, her favorite part of owning a flower boutique is making people happy, a sentiment Randy shares. “Just knowing we’re able to touch people’s hearts, whether it’s for appreciation or sympathy or whatever it may be, is rewarding,” he says.

Randy was also exposed to the realities of business at a young age, though through a slightly different route. He grew up in the Midwest and spent considerable time working for his uncles on their farms. “The biggest part of my background is learning how to work hard every day,” he says. “When you’ve got a job to do, it’s got to be finished… you just have to go until the job gets done.

“It’s helped me in this business,” he continues. “Everyone thinks it’s a beautiful, fun, ‘Boy, it must be great to work here!’ kind of business—it’s more demanding than anything I’ve ever done in my life, physically or mentally. And that’s also a big part of the reward.”

The Benefits of Early Exposure

Chanda and Randy value the opportunities they had as youth to participate in business endeavors, leading both of them to volunteer with Junior Achievement of Alaska, teaching classes for the organization to provide young Alaskans with better information on the value of business and entrepreneurship and the options they can pursue.

“Having opportunity in private enterprise—you get to write your own ticket,” Randy says, “We don’t have to sit around and wait for a raise from the boss; we can work as hard as we want and the benefits are there. If we want to work harder, there’s more to get.”

“Understanding how a business operates and how a community operates… that’s almost mandatory in my opinion,” Chanda says, adding that such information was once taught in public school and seems to have fallen to the wayside.

Building that foundation in young people is important because running a business can trip up even experienced adults.

Randy and Chanda Mines, owners of Bagoy’s.

Junior Achievement of Alaska

Before taking over Bagoy’s, Randy worked at PepsiCo and Chanda was employed at a local nonprofit, though before that she also worked for PepsiCo (which is where the couple met). Despite their specific experience in retail and in Alaska markets, “The biggest hurdle for us was probably the first five years in business,” Randy says.

While some aspects of their experience worked in their favor, not everything translated. “It’s a totally different animal when you can put merchandise on the shelf and let it sit for three or four months before it sells versus putting flowers in a cooler,” he says.

“It took us a while because flowers were dying faster than we wanted them to, I was not ordering the right amounts, not ordering the right types, thinking we had more money than we did… We didn’t get in trouble, but it was pretty thin for the first few years.”

Fortunately, through trial and error the fledgling owners were able to sort out inventory and cash flow issues, eventually shifting their focus to long term evolution and growth.

“In business you have to be problem solvers. There’s risk and there’s reward, and kids need to understand that. I don’t think they get that anywhere except from business mentors in Junior Achievement who tell them, ‘I fell on my face, and this is how I got back up.’”

—Chanda Mines, Owner, Bagoy’s

“In business you have to be problem solvers,” Chanda says. “There’s risk and there’s reward, and kids need to understand that.

“I don’t think they get that anywhere except from business mentors in Junior Achievement who tell them, ‘I fell on my face, and this is how I got back up.’”

Another benefit of educating people at a young age is that they can develop, over time, a more grounded understanding of business and rely on that when confronted with choices that don’t have obvious answers. Sometimes trusting a gut instinct is the only way to make a decision.

Chanda and Randy Mines took over ownership and operations of Bagoy’s in 1991.

Junior Achievement of Alaska

Randy and Chanda have a poignant example: “I’ll tell you one of our most brilliant moments, and it was entirely by chance,” Chanda says. “Our main store since the ‘80s has been the Dimond location, but we’ve had different branch locations. We’d rent and then we’d get bumped because the building would sell or whatever happened. So we had a lease in midtown, and it was a profitable floral shop and doing very well, and we kind of had to look into the future and wonder what to do about it: do we keep it, because when you have two stores it’s double the workload and expense. The lease was ending, so we said goodbye to that location, and not long after—COVID happened,” she says. “It feels like, ‘Oh my gosh, brilliant!’ when it was nothing to do with that.”

Whether their decision to let go of a lease was indeed a stroke of good luck or simply solid intuition, it was followed by a national pandemic that challenged every business—including Bagoy’s.

Spring is generally a boom season for florists, but this year Easter celebrations were smaller, many graduations were cancelled or conducted online, and events like proms were out of the question. “It was a little rough, but we got to May and things were really turning around and Mother’s Day was really good,” Randy says.

While Bagoy’s was thriving, several other florists in Anchorage were not as fortunate, and Randy says by the end of May roughly 25 percent of Anchorage’s flower shops had closed their doors. “All of their customers are still in the marketplace, and I think that boosted all of the [remaining] floral businesses, including ours.”

“We kept it going. We were handed the baton by [Chanda’s] father and he said, ‘It’s all yours now—don’t screw it up. It’ll take care of you if you take care of it.’”

—Randy Mines, Owner, Bagoy’s

Early in the pandemic, Chanda and Randy also took a long look at changes they could make to secure the business’s viability. “When we saw what was coming, we knew we really had to enhance our website,” Chanda says. “We poured hours and hours and hours of time into building the website and adding things to it that aren’t typically on the site, just knowing people wouldn’t be able to wander through the store; we didn’t want the gift side to fail. It was a whole new direction, but it’s working.”

For Chanda and Randy, being part of the Bagoy’s legacy is one of their proudest accomplishments. “We kept it going,” Randy says. “We were handed the baton by [Chanda’s] father and he said, ‘It’s all yours now—don’t screw it up. It’ll take care of you if you take care of it.’”

“We put people before money,” Chanda adds. “If someone’s not happy with a service or product, they’re not stuck, they’re going to get taken care of… It’s not, ‘If you don’t like it, you can return it,’ it goes deeper than that. We will do everything possible to heal that relationship, whether they use us again or not, because we feel that the best way to be good business people is to put our hearts into it.”

Enjoy this story? Check out other in-depth articles in our January 2021 Digital Edition.

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