2005 Distinguished Alumni
A June without orchids? Not if Norman Fang has his way.
Brides and prom dates across the country rely on these rare, sturdy flowers that come in a plethora of amazing colors and sizes. Orchids pique our interest with exotic names such as butterfly kisses, fuchsia pearls and sweet berry phalaenopsis then sustain our fascination with exquisitely shaped petals and structural diversity.
“Orchids are not only beautiful, they are also practical,” says Norman Fang, a Cal Poly Pomona alumnus and owner of Norman 's Orchids in Montclair , a family-run business that began as an end-of-class project in 1986. “For example, they are quite hardy and make great houseplants, adapting to normal household temperatures and remaining in bloom for about two to three months.”
Fang, an ornamental horticulture major who graduated in 1988, has cultivated a lifelong interest in orchids, but he originally enrolled at Cal Poly Pomona as a chemistry major. As he walked across campus one day, he happened upon a greenhouse containing the university's famous Raymond Burr orchid collection. That moment, quite simply, changed the course of a young man's life.
“Seeing the Raymond Burr collection revitalized my interest in orchids, and I knew I had to change my major and follow my dream,” says Fang. “Who knows? If I hadn't seen the Burr collection as I walked across campus, I might be a pharmaceutical employee today.”
Norman 's Orchids isn't just a nursery that specializes in a niche product, it is an innovative, highly regarded international business that ships more than a hundred boxes of product per day. With upwards of 300 awards from the American Orchid Society to its credit, Norman 's Orchids has something for everyone. Fang, one of the first orchid producers to enter the e-commerce market — www.orchids.com — offers everything from elegant gift baskets to easy-keeping orchids in bloom to exotic rarities for special collectors.
All plants are nurtured carefully on site under Fang's auspices, prepared to ship out at a moment's notice to locations around the world. He also notes that the idea that orchids don't have scent is a fallacy. Orchid scents can vary from delicate to rich, including aromas as intriguing as chocolate, citrus, lilac and raspberry. One of Fang's favorite orchids is paphiopedilum, or more commonly known as the ladyslipper, so rare it cannot be mass-produced.
“The ladyslipper embodies the mystique of the orchid,” he says. “It is a plant for a serious collector, an orchid to treasure.”
Fang notes, however, that his business thrives on more simple, but no less beautiful, blooms such as phalaenopsis and cattleya, popular with floral designers, interior decorators and orchid afficianados alike. He learned an important lesson from a Cal Poly Pomona professor: The best orchid is the one that sells.
And is business blooming?
“It's Fang-tastic,” he says with a smile.
Norman Fang is one of nine alumni honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award for 2005. To see other honorees, visit www.calpolypomonaalumni.com . The May/June issue of Poly @lumni will feature profiles on all the Distinguished Alumni.