HIGHLAND — Longtime customer David Gerlach bought and took over Brumm's Bloomin' Barn, the longtime landmark Region gift shop and florist that's now known as Bloomin' Barn.
He's been running the half-century-old store at 2540 45th St. in Highland since longtime owners Jerry and Nancy Brumm retired.
"I have been a customer of Brumm's ever since I can remember. My mom used to take my siblings and me to the yearly Christmas open house," Gerlach said. "It has been a tradition in our family for years. As I got older, I continued to shop at Brumm's. Candles, home decor, flowers — Brumm's was always the go-to spot. One thing that I loved about shopping at Brumm's was the customer service and the familiarity of the staff. I got to know a lot of the staff and the owners very well throughout the many years."
The Brumms had planned to close the shop at the end of last year until Gerlach stepped in and save it.
"I decided to buy Brumm's because I didn’t want to see a staple business in the community close. I wanted to continue the legacy Jerry and Nancy Brumm started over 50 years ago," Gerlach said. "We are important to the community because we represent a new chapter in one of Northwest Indiana’s most beloved independent businesses as well as premier gift shop and florist."
He said customer service makes the difference at the shop.
"In addition to customer service, the quality of floral work and our home decor is second to none," he said. "My number one goal is to continue the same level of professionalism, quality, and customer service that the community has grown to love and expect."
Gerlach has kept the same brands in stock so longtime customers can continue to find their favorite merchandise, but also added new brands and products to help attract the next generation of customers.
"The best way I can describe the changes made to the store is a best friend gets a makeover. You recognize them, you immediately know who they are, but you are blown away by how rejuvenated they look," he said.
Gerlach retained a dozen employees at the 5,000-square-foot store, all but two, who opted to retire.
"Since I took over, the one thing that I consistently hear from many customers is that this is their 'happy place,'" Gerlach said. "I love that an environment is created within our store that allows people to escape from life’s hectic moments. Customers should expect the same level of one on one customer service, quality of products and flowers, and the familiar faces of the staff they have grown to love throughout the years."
Manager Aaron Shloss said Bloomin' Barn has been an enduring institution in the community.
"It's a place that was built on a bedrock of optimism and artistic integrity and when it thrived, for 50 years, it thrived on positivity and hard work and dedication to that original vision. And people sense that. It's why they come to us," he said. "People need that independent spirit. They need to be reminded that it still exists and that it can exist for them, too."
Shloss has worked there since 2011 when he biked to work next door at Renwald's, which runs ice cream trucks around neighborhoods.
"The florist had a 'now hiring stock and delivery' sign outside, so on a lark I went in and applied and I was hired on the spot to do basic unskilled labor to take delivery orders," he said. "And everything just kind of went from there, and the years unfolded and now I am managing all aspects of the shop, and it feels like home to me. And my son works here too, now, in the capacity I used to fill. So it's just very familiar and it feels right. And the store is hugely successful ... and I like being successful. I like working at a place that brings money in. It's much more entertaining than failing. Plus, it allows you to keep the Netflix subscription paid."
He said there was a period of adjustment as the longtime store transitioned to new ownership.
"We spent January mainly just revamping the store and filling floral orders. That's what kept us going ... and getting to know David," he said. "And it was the middle of winter, and COVID was still looming heavy, and Jerry and Nancy — who had always been here every moment of every workday for years and years — were suddenly gone, retired ... and the paradigm shift was strange. But then suddenly everything just made sense and this new iteration of the business came into place. The staff is the same and we are still in many ways the same old store, but we are also carrying new lines of products we never had before and really pushing ourselves to go forward with the look and feel of the shop and with our approach to things. We will always embrace the legacy we came from but we definitely don't want to be chained to it. We want to net new customers as much as we want to retain those who have come here up to this point."
Shloss said he's enjoyed working under the new ownership and seeing the store evolve and turn the page to the next chapter.
"David has absolutely no ego and he has complete faith in the staff. He's an extremely kind person and he very much keeps himself with us and not above us," he said. "He also exists in a head space that is wholly predicated on aesthetics and efficiency. He has an absolutely meticulous vision for the store both inside and out, and he lives in thrall to that vision. He knows what he wants and he settles for nothing less. He's very calm, and rational, and pragmatic, yet he retains a sense of urgency and drive. He's really the ideal person to take over the store because Jerry and Nancy had many of the same qualities."
Bloomin' Barn remains a shopping destination in Northwest Indiana, Shloss said.
"It is, in my estimation, the definition of small-town independent success in the Region. Yes, this area is a busy, multi-zip code community in a suburban pocket of Chicago, but when you depart 80/94 and enter Highland it's like when Dorothy woke up and landed in Oz," he said. "NWI is a singular place to live, and work, and exist. And our store symbolizes that in so many ways. There is nobody out there like us. Nobody else has this legacy."
For more information, visit www.bloominbarn.com or call 219-924-1000.