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Florist busy with blooms on Valentine's Day
Occasions prepare for flower rush today
Occasions Florist owner Carol Slaughter completes a bouquet of a dozen roses as the florist prepares for the annual Valentine’s Day rush.

The small downtown flower store was quiet a week before Valentine’s Day.

Carol Slaughter, co-owner of Occasions Florist in Gainesville, said she was using “the calm before the storm” to prepare for the busiest day of the year. Slaughter and John Carluk, part-time employee and former owner of the store, stocked the store’s shelves with glass vases and ordered hundreds of roses for the holiday rush.

Slaughter said it’s impossible to know exactly the amount of business the store can expect but she ordered 700 roses to be on the safe side. She said she heard of another area florist who ordered 2,000 roses.

According to the National Retail Federation, nearly one third, or 37.3 percent, of gift-givers will buy flowers for the holiday.

“Most men are so fickle they wait until the very last minute,” Carluk said. “Like they could be ordering flowers now, and we’d have it all set up, but they’ll come in on Friday morning.”

“And then they’ll want it delivered to the office by noon,” Slaughter said, with a chuckle. “Preordering is the only way to ensure you get what you want because otherwise you’re at our mercy.”

Carluk said he remembered one Valentine’s Day a few years ago when the line stretched out of the store, around the corner and down Bradford Street.

“It gets crazy,” Carluk said. “It just gets really intense because you’re trying to fill your orders, the phone is ringing and you’ve got all these people standing around you.”

Slaughter admits she does enjoy seeing people “waving money around” and shouting “I want a dozen roses now.”

While the holiday is certainly a big day for business, the store doesn’t net as much profit as it may seem. An arrangement with a dozen roses costs consumers around $75.

“We do make some money,” Slaughter said. “It’s one of our biggest days, but everything we have to buy is much more expensive, too. Roses are horribly expensive this year.”

Roses are often imported from South America, and costs can vary for reasons ranging from gas prices to political situations. Slaughter said area shops try to keep their prices down to stay competitive, but the profit margin decreases as a result.

“This year I’m going to be pushing a lot of tulips, too,” Slaughter said. “They’re a nice bouquet. They’re pretty. And it’s for the guy who can’t afford $75 worth of roses.”

Occasions doesn’t “premake” arrangements, allowing customers to personalize their floral arrangements no matter the time of year. Slaughter said designers always listen to what customers want and try to educate them on what flowers are in season and how to keep arrangements affordable.

Slaughter said while it can get stressful on busy holidays, the flower business is very rewarding.

“I don’t think you can be more hands-on or more personally involved in a business as a flower shop is,” Slaughter said. “You hear everybody’s joy, everybody’s tragedy. You’re just trying to help people feel better all the time.”