In a city that’s seen so many changes over the years, it’s hard to say what part of town has changed the most. South Phoenix would be on the list. In the 1950s, the landscape down there looked dramatically
different, including the stretch of Baseline Road between 32nd and 48th streets, which was lined with flower farms owned by Japanese-American families who had purchased the land after World War II. Seven families operated what were known as the “Japanese flower farms.” Today, only one family remains: the Nakagawas.
Kathy Nakagawa and her siblings own and operate Baseline Flowers, which was founded by their father, Hiroshi “Nick” Nakagawa. After he died in 2021, Nakagawa took over managing the day-to-day business at the shop, along with floral designer Maria Marquez.
As an homage to the shop’s history, the interior features photos of Baseline Road when it was lined with flowers and known as a tourist attraction. “Being here now is just a way of reminding people of what the area used to look like,” Nakagawa says. “A lot of people don’t even know that this area used to be agricultural.”
Nakagawa’s father and grandfather were incarcerated during World War II and were “sponsored” out of their concentration camp to help another Japanese-American family with their farm. Today, the flower shop is a testament to what their family survived — and what they endured as more obstacles came their way.
“Right now, I just feel really lucky that my dad cared about staying here,” Nakagawa says. “We had a fire in the ’90s, and believe it or not, we’ve had cars crash into our building twice. But despite all the obstacles, my parents kept rebuilding and existing.”
Another reason Nakagawa and her siblings decided to keep the business going was to retain a sense of community. The shop has hosted storytelling events to bring people together and provide a gathering place. “That’s something that’s hard to find in Phoenix,” Nakagawa says. “We want to be more of a community space.”
Baseline Flowers still serves as a full-service flower shop, from creating arrangements for special occasions to selling bouquets to customers who stop in. And while the road is no longer lined with flowers and the blooms are grown off-site, the nostalgia of the Japanese flower farms still lingers.
PHOENIX Baseline Flowers, 3801 E. Baseline Road, 602-437-1230, baselineflowers.com