Housed on the corner of Court and High Street, while being illuminated by the presence of vibrant colors and filled with the scent of fresh flowers, Olson Florist is no stranger to sweetness. That fact is made even clearer when one speaks with its Co-owner Maria Palacio.
Established in 1926, and welcoming Maria and her husband Manuel as new owners in 2008, Olson Florist contains a history that is made richer by the attitude its management expresses. Maria’s ambition lies not within the confines of conventional commercial goals, rather, she wishes to instill joy in her customers.
“We make people happy every day––everywhere, somebody is happy and they’re smiling. The delivery drivers tell me about the customers and say, ‘Oh, they were so happy,’” says a smiling Maria. “We are in the making people happy business.”
Before owning Olson Florist, Maria worked for the Salem Keizer School District where she interacted with a variety of different students. It was in this position that she witnessed the need for role models, especially in youth who feel disenfranchised from the rest of their peers. Since then, Maria has made it her mission to be the inspiration these students don’t often see.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher because that was all I saw. I didn’t see dentists. I didn’t see lawyers,” says Maria. “I know that we have a large population of Latinos here in Salem, and it is good that the community see themselves represented in the people around them. Our children need to see that.”
Maria’s desire to connect with her community isn’t solely limited to those who feel disempowered, rather she wishes to collaborate with the entirety of Salem.
“We, as a community, need to make sure that we are not just serving one part of the community, but that we are open to all,” states Maria. “We really should not think of each other as competition, but rather as brothers and sisters in this business world.”
While Maria works to empower the marginalized through representation, it is up to the rest of us to ensure that her ideals bloom into fruition.
Currently, Maria serves as a board of director for the Salem Chamber.
Olson Florist is located at 499 Court St NE in Salem, Oregon.