Sunday, August 7, 2022

Florists are the backbone of Mother’s Day as many continue to stay distant from family

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 at Morrison’s Flowers and Gifts on Jamestown Road. (WYDaily file)

People ordering flowers for Mother’s Day can expect contactless deliveries and other changes because of social distancing measures.

While the coronavirus has caused many businesses on the Peninsula to close, flower shops are open and gearing up for one of the busiest times of the year: Mother’s Day.

And don’t forget — it’s this Sunday.

“Business has surpassed everything I have hoped and dreamed of,” said Arlene Aitken-Williams, owner of Morrison’s Flowers & Gifts. “It is busier than ever.”

The flower shop closed its doors to the public but continued to deliver floral arrangements during the coronavirus.

Aitken-Williams said she must have 300 orders for Mother’s Day as of Wednesday, something she attributes to people wanting to have contact with their loved ones during the coronavirus.

“A lot of retirement communities are locked down,” she said, adding residents are limited to their rooms or the facilities. “So a lot of their children are sending them flowers this weekend.”

For the few retirement homes who do accept deliveries, they don’t allow anyone past the front gate and may sanitize the flower arrangements, too.

The “internet orders are just rolling in” she said and plans to cut off people who call in orders for Mother’s Day Friday at noon.

“We’re so proud to be a part of the Williamsburg community and we have just felt their support,” she said. “We really felt like our job is worth doing and it really brings a lot of heartfelt joy to people who are getting it.”

Despite the drop in their normal business such as weddings, graduations and funerals, Aitken-Williams said she has noticed an increase in single and day-to-day deliveries.

“A lot of people had COVID-19,” she said. “We’ve had many references to the virus.”

However, some of the flower shop’s procedures have changed.

Most of the floral designers now wear masks while completing orders and maintain a social distance of six feet apart. Those making floral deliveries wear masks and gloves, too, Aitken-Williams said.

“All of our deliveries are non-contact deliveries,” Aitken-Williams said. “Everyone has to be called that their deliveries will be on their porch.”

Those who want to avoid the delivery fee can pick up their flower arrangements curbside but must pay over the phone first and call to retrieve their order from a bench outside the shop, she said.

When asked if Morrison’s was hiring to meet the surge in business, Aitken-Williams said she is hiring delivery drivers, but floral designers are hard to find.

“We have reached out to find other drivers because a lot of our normal season drivers are not comfortable doing deliveries.”

Another thing that has changed are flower shops across the country offering more designer choice arrangements over specific floral arrangements, she said.

Flower shops across the country are experiencing certain types of flower shortages like sunflowers and gerbera daises, she said, so Morrison’s is offering more designer choice arrangements as opposed to specific ones.

“It’s really helpful for people this year [to choose] designers’ choice,” she added. “If people can just be patient and confident that we will do the best job we can.”

At Williamsburg Floral and Gifts, owner Elgin Morris said business has decreased since the start of the pandemic because flowers aren’t considered a necessity.

“But we’ve still been doing business all along,” he said. “It brings some cheer and brightens people’s days.”

In addition to normal orders,  Morris said he’s had a number of customers order flower arrangements for people who have helped them during this difficult time, such as health care workers, since the pandemic started.

Since opening in 1980, Morris said the business has seen a number of Mother’s Days and other trends and expect this year to be similar. He said during this busy time, the business starts early to prepare the plants and source from local greenhouses.

Williamsburg Floral has moved to a curbside pick up program and has continued to provide delivery service, with extra precautions such as contactless delivery. And with the lack of business from events such as graduation, Morris said he’s hoping these options will help to offset any loss of revenue.

But Cathy Nester, owner of the Flower Cupboard, said her business has had twice as many orders for Mother’s Day this year compared to last year.

“We think it’s because people that normally take their mother out to lunch, brunch or dinner aren’t able to do that this year,” she said. “So sending flowers is a way that still shows you care.”

To handle the influx of orders, she said staff are delivering flowers early and working late hours. The business started delivering flowers as early as Monday this week, and let customers know ahead of time that their order might be delivered early. 

Nester said most people have been understanding and she has started attaching notes to each of the deliveries that tell the recipient their order was delivered early and the sender is thinking of them in this hard time.

Just on Tuesday, Nester said the business delivered more than 100 arrangements to customers and expects that number to grow as it gets closer to Mother’s Day. During deliveries, drivers wear masks and drop the order off at the door to avoid coming into contact with anyone. 

But Mother’s Day isn’t the only time the business has been busy. 

Nester said the first few weeks of the pandemic were slow, especially because many wholesalers had either closed or limited their shipments which made it difficult to get supplies. But around Easter, the business brought in twice as many customers as the previous year.

Since the pandemic struck, Nester said orders have continued to increase as more and more people send flowers to make up for not being able to attend events, such as birthdays and anniversaries. 

But there still has been a huge loss in sales from the lack of weddings and other events. Nester said she expects business to return in the fall when the events are rescheduled. 

In the meantime, she’s glad to be able to provide the service during such a socially distant time.

“I feel like during this time, the flowers have brought smiles to people’s faces when they can’t be with the ones they care about,” she said.

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Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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