Tuesday, October 4, 2022

600 deliveries in a week: Inside the art of Mother’s Day flowers

Arlene Aitken-Williams gestures toward flower arrangement orders stored in a large semi-trailer behind Morrison's Flowers and Gifts on Jamestown Road. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
Arlene Aitken-Williams gestures toward flower arrangement orders stored in a large semi-trailer behind Morrison’s Flowers and Gifts on Jamestown Road. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

At Morrison’s Flowers and Gifts off Jamestown Road, Mother’s Day requires bringing in the big guns.

That includes a 50-plus-foot refrigerated semitrailer, bulk orders of dozens of different types of flowers and greens, twice the number of staff and designers and some overtime hours.

On Wednesday ahead of Mother’s Day, Morrison’s smelled of fresh flowers as the building bustled with more than half a dozen flower designers. The designers diligently snipped stems and carefully placed flowers into glass and metal containers, leaving piles of leaves and stems on the floor at their work stations.

In the week leading up to Mother’s Day, Morrison’s, a family-owned business at 1303 Jamestown Road Suite 129, processes about 600 flower delivery orders, from carnations, to roses, to planters and more, said owner Arlene Aitken-Williams.

Staffing typically hovers around 13 people, but the flower shop brings on about 30 employees to help through the busy times, Aitken-Williams said.

Mother’s Day is one of Morrison’s two-busiest holidays. The other is Valentine’s Day.

“We’ll be taking orders through Saturday,” Aitken-Williams said.

Gametime strategy

The flower business requires planning to ensure there are enough flowers and containers to fulfill all orders.

A pile of leaves, stems and petals collects around the feet of a Morrison's designer as she works on a funeral arrangement Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
A pile of leaves, stems and petals collects around the feet of a Morrison’s designer as she works on a funeral arrangement Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

Morrison’s orders flowers a few weeks ahead of time and bases the numbers off the type of arrangements they offer and past holiday orders. Morrison’s is part of the Teleflora network, which has some preset arrangement specials for each holiday.

“If we do 3,000 carnations last year, we’ll do that again this year,” Aitken-Williams said.

Morrison’s will also create custom arrangements or planters.

“We will do pretty much anything a customer asks for, as long as we have it in stock,” Aitken-Williams said.

Morrison’s also has a specific strategy to make orders and deliveries as well-organized as possible.

The shop has multiple coolers to hold flowers and completed arrangements, but those are not enough for holidays like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Morrison’s also uses a full-size refrigerated semitrailer to hold orders and bulk flowers.

The shop delivers flowers to 12 different “zones” encompassing James City County, Williamsburg and upper York County. Those zones are highlighted on a long list of addresses, one of which is about six feet long and hangs on a door in the workroom

Flower arrangement orders for Mother's Day are stored in a large semi-trailer behind Morrison's Flowers and Gifts on Jamestown Road. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
Flower arrangement orders for Mother’s Day are stored in a large semi-trailer behind Morrison’s Flowers and Gifts on Jamestown Road. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

When a flower order is complete, it will go into a cooler or the semitrailer. Each arrangement contains order information, zone information and a colored piece of paper showing which day it needs to be delivered.

Aitken-Williams estimated there will be about 75 deliveries Thursday, 150 Friday, and 300 on Saturday.

Morrison’s also does flowers for weddings, funerals and other special events.

“You’re with people on their most happy and sad days,” Aitken-Williams said.

While funerals cannot be planned for, the business tries to avoid designing wedding flowers for Mother’s Day weekend. A wedding in addition to 600 deliveries may not be feasible for a small crew of designers to do their best work, Aitken-Williams said.

The business is also closed on Sunday, so all orders must be completed and delivered by the end of the day Saturday.

A Morrison's employee holds up a list of delivery addresses and zones in the Williamsburg area. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
A Morrison’s employee holds up a list of delivery addresses and zones in the Williamsburg area. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

Perks of small business

Morrison’s was first opened by Alison Morrison, the wife of a dentist in Williamsburg. She sold the business to Aitken-Williams and her husband in 2003.

Aitken-Williams takes pride in her long-term staffers, two of whom have been with the business since before Aitken-Williams and her husband bought the shop. Many of the other employees have been with the shop for at least five years.

Having the same staff members helps with consistency in their flowers, she added.

“Once you’re on board, we’re like one happy family,” Aitken-Williams said.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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