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‘Great flowers and warm hugs’: Vendor cultivates joy at Corona del Mar farmers market

Flower farmer David Franco helps Rose Maniscalchi with her selection at the Corona del Mar farmers market.
Flower farmer David Franco helps Rose Maniscalchi with her selection at the Corona del Mar farmers market on a recent Saturday.
(Susan Hoffman)

Every Saturday for the last 24 years, rain or shine, David Franco has filled his white cargo van with flowers and headed from his farm in Vista to the Corona del Mar farmers market where he sells his stock.

Franco’s mother-in-law, Maria Aguilar, started the business Maria’s Flowers 45 years ago in San Diego County, where she sold flowers directly to consumers at farmers markets and wholesale to shops. Franco says he began his floriculture career after his wife became pregnant 30 years ago and could no longer help her mother by working the farmers markets.

At that time Franco had been working in the auto body business, doing painting and body work for Weseloh Chevrolet in Carlsbad.

Today, Corona del Mar customers patronize Franco’s flower stand for the socialization as much as for the array of fresh flowers. And he likes it that way.

“The customers are really nice, down to earth, people,” said Franco.

He explained that since he’s been working the market for such a long time his regular customers have become more like family.

“I see them more than my own relatives,” he chuckled. “I see their kids grow up, I get invited to parties and when customers are in [my] neighborhood, they stop by the farm or the house.”

Franco noted that the casual environment of a farmers market makes it easier to get to know his customers. “Sometimes I’m like a psychiatrist when people tell you their problems,” said Franco. “I help try to solve then tell them my experience if it relates to their problem, and usually we do all have the same problems.”

He said he also gets asked for farming tips, like “why don’t my sweet peas grow?” He tells them, “There’s good years and bad years for flowers.”

Balboa Island resident Judy Busby, a customer of Franco’s for over 10 years, said, “He is phenomenal. He fills me with joy and happiness with his great flowers and warm hugs.”

Flower Farmer, David Franco is grateful for loyal customers like Judy Busby who shop at the Corona del Mar farmers market.
Flower farmer David Franco is grateful for loyal customers like Judy Busby who shop at the Corona del Mar farmers market.
(Susan Hoffman)

While shopping at the farmers market on a recent Saturday, another loyal customer, Rose Maniscalchi with her arms full of hydrangeas and stargazers, said she has been coming to the market for the last five years.

“I try to get here early every weekend,” said Maniscalchi, who lives nearby. “I like to support David and the local growers. I have three regular spots [to shop]: fish, chips and salsa and fresh flowers.”

Franco says the family-owned business has three different farms, located in San Marcos, Vista and Bonsall. His kids, along with part-time employees all help his mother-in-law with farm duties such as planting, tractoring, watering and selling. The business continues to pick up more stores, florists and farmers markets, he said.

“We do everything, weddings, funerals, quinceañeras,” said Franco. “We’re like a one-stop shop.”

Customers flock to David Franco's flower stand at the Corona del Mar farmers market.
(Susan Hoffman)

Franco explained whenever customers ask why he doesn’t raise prices during holidays, he responds that it’s because of the support that he receives all year round from them.

As for going back to automotive painting and body work, that has morphed from a full-time job into a hobby restoring classic cars.

“Whenever I have time, which is a couple of hours here and there,” he said with a smile.

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