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Letting love bloom

Valentine’s Day is the top holiday for florists

POSTED: February 21, 2008 5:01 a.m.
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Scott Rogers | The Times Despy Foley, owner of Joyce Merck Florist, prepares flowers for the busy Valentine's Day season.

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For florists, Valentine’s Day is the biggest day of the year.
There are other holidays, such as Mother’s Day and Christmas, when business is brisk, but nothing compares to the build up leading to the day of love.
Despy Foley, owner of Joyce Merck Florist in Gainesville, directs the Valentine’s Day operation at her shop. She sees to every detail, from extra workers on the phones to making sure everyone has breakfast and lunch.
Her floral business typically operates two delivery vans. On Thursday — the big day — six additional rental vans will be employed to dispatch flowers on every road leading out of Gainesville.
On Friday, roses from destinations including Holland, Equador and Colombia were arriving by the box load. Shipments will continue to come in through mid-week. She is expecting to deliver 400 to 500 orders on Valentine’s Day.
“About 60 percent want a dozen red roses,” Foley said. Most will be meticulously arranged by one of the eight floral stylists working on Valentine’s Day and the day before.
While the holiday is a boom time for florists, they are quick to admit that there is more competition in the market.
Supermarkets and discounters offer roses and other flowers at prices considerably less than florists.
In Gainesville, the going rate for a dozen Valentine roses from a florist is around $70 a dozen, plus delivery charges.
“The flowers sold by a florist are of a different quality,” Foley said. “It’s like buying from a local bakery. It’s just different.”
She said that even in the rush of Valentine’s Day, she eyes the arrangements for quality, knowing that a card bearing the name of her business is attached to each order.
Foley is not alone. At Opal and J.R. Florist on Washington Street, the Valentine orders are already coming in. Wednesday, they plan to work late before returning early Thursday to begin deliveries.
At Sha’s Lanier Florist on McEver Road, Dot Warren said their Valentine’s Day begins long before dawn. “It’s very hectic,” Warren said. “On Valentine’s Day, we’ll be in here at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.”
“We have a lot of regular customers who have already called in,” Foley said.
By Wednesday, the three phone lines will ring every time the phone is put down.
She also plans to have a cooler filled with arranged flowers ready for those who show up on Thursday in search of a floral expression of love.
By sundown on Thursday, the dozens of flowers will be gone and the many workers will be nursing sore feet and backs.
“It’s hard work,” said Foley. “I know a lot of folks who think working in a florist shop would be fun. It’s fun, but it’s hard work.”


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