Storm has florists making other arrangements

Mimi DuBovec, owner of Paoli Florist, prepares Valentine's Day orders for Friday delivery. Some flower shops in the region moved up deliveries to make accommodations for the snowstorm.
Mimi DuBovec, owner of Paoli Florist, prepares Valentine's Day orders for Friday delivery. Some flower shops in the region moved up deliveries to make accommodations for the snowstorm. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 15, 2014

Around noon Thursday, during a lull in the storm predicted to dump a foot or more of snow outside his door, Jeffrey Sklute took a break and sized up the situation.

Many of the 20 or so workers at his Yardley Flower Co. feverishly cut and arranged roses while others answered ringing phones. His delivery vans, however, were idle.

"Everything is kind of working against us, but we're doing the best we can," said Sklute, a florist for decades in lower Bucks County. "We'll probably be here till midnight."

For many merchants across the region, Thursday's storm was a nuisance. For florists, it was as if Mother Nature were taking a whack at their kneecaps.

Valentine's Day is unrivaled in the floral industry. According to the Society of American Florists, 233 million roses were produced last year for the holiday. Flower shops count on business to climb exponentially in the days before and on Feb. 14.

But it's tough to sell flowers if you can't reach customers - and they can't reach you.

"If I lose a day of work, I have thousands of dollars' worth of inventory here," Susan McKee, owner of Old City Flowers in Philadelphia, said this week. "It is very disconcerting."

Many said advance warning of the storm helped: They shipped out deliveries on Wednesday or notified customers that Friday's flowers could come late, even on Saturday.

"We're definitely planning ahead," said Lori Sabatini, owner of Fink Flowers & Gifts in Bristol, Bucks County. "But Friday, the show must go on. We'll be delivering."

Nicholas Halladay Jr., owner of the Halladay Florist shop in West Chester, said he notified about 30 customers Wednesday that their orders would be delivered that day, instead of Thursday or Friday.

No one canceled an order, but three complained about the move-up, Halladay said.

He said they weren't being realistic, given the dangers of traveling rural Chester County roads during or after a storm. "No order is worth it to jeopardize one of my staff, putting them in an unsafe situation," said Halladay, whose family has run the business for two decades. "I would never do that."

In some places, the storm stifled business and left owners worried about their prospects.

"Usually, on a day like today - Feb. 13 - the phone would be ringing off the hook," said Ruth Kravitz, who has worked at Paoli Florist in the Paoli Shopping Center for 23 years.

By 2:30 p.m., she said, it had rung only twice.

Still, the store had hundreds of orders to fill. And owner Mimi DuBovec said she was just happy the storm didn't hit on Valentine's Day itself

"We open tomorrow at 8 a.m. And we'll be waiting for the crowds coming in the door," DuBovec said.

If the weather delays deliveries, it might even provide an opening for extra sales, she said.

"It could be a good excuse for some men," DuBovec said.

Forgot to get flowers on Friday? Blame the storm, she said.

In Bucks County, there was also virtually no walk-in traffic at Sklute's store in a small shopping plaza outside Morrisville.

Because of the weather, Sklute had 500 deliveries planned for Friday, and 15 drivers lined up.

One worker, Co-Kema "Coko" Parker, slept Wednesday night in a living space at the store instead of going home to Wilmington.

"I'm exhausted," Parker, 41, said as she designed arrangements of roses.

But she said didn't mind.

"The smile - I like to see the guys come in and get excited for Valentine's Day," Parker said. "This is the one holiday that really expresses the depth of your love. This is the one day you get to say, 'I love you.' "

Sabdur-rahman@phillynews.com610-313-8112 @sabdurr

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