Florists take a deep breath for the busiest holiday of the year

Evelyn Beall uses space in her Westminster apartment to store overflow Valentine's Day flower orders from her shop ahead of the holiday Tuesday.
Evelyn Beall uses space in her Westminster apartment to store overflow Valentine's Day flower orders from her shop ahead of the holiday Tuesday. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

A week and a half ago, Lizz Mercier started working on preparing bows for floral arrangements at Flowers by Evelyn.

"Speed is paramount," said Mercier, a part-time employee of the shop.

The bows can take a little while to create, so making them ahead of time is better for the rush of flowers that come in for Valentine's Day.

The holiday that celebrates love - lauded by girlfriends and wives who receive over the top arrangements and hated by those who call it a Hallmark holiday - does mean big business for local flower shops in the county.

Valentine's Day is big business for shops like Flowers by Evelyn and the Flower Box, both located in Westminster. Evelyn Beall, the owner of Flowers by Evelyn, said on a normal week, the store has 10 to 15 deliveries a day, whereas on Valentine's Day it is around 30 to 40 deliveries.

During Valentine's Day her home explodes with flower arrangements that can't quite fit into the small shop on Main Street. Last year, there were 128 deliveries and 97 pickups for floral arrangements, all arranged by Beall and her part-time employees.

Tuesday, the flower shop was abuzz with five employees arranging flowers and pulling out roses of every color. While roses are a timeless classic, this year Beall has seen more people asking for gerberas, irises and sunflowers, she said.

According to aboutflowers.com, a website hosted by the Society of American Florists, 27 percent of adults purchased flowers or plants as gifts for Valentine's Day in 2012, with 64 percent being men. The National Retail Federation expects the number of people buying flowers will increase this year to one-third of all consumers celebrating the holiday.

In her shop, red roses are the most popular roses, and then yellow, Beall said. This year, there have been more requests for lavender roses because of the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl win. Beall said she has a special this year for a delivery with lavender roses and a Ravens Super Bowl plaque.

Beall owns one of the smaller flower shops in the area, she said, but she simply does as much as she can.

"You gotta take the holiday as it comes," Beall said. "You can only take as much as your body can handle. You can only work 24 hours in a day."

While she would, and has, spent all night working on arrangements, Beall said she tries to make sure her employees can get home at a reasonable time. Tuesday night she estimated everyone would leave by 8 p.m., and she would stay late to continue working on arrangements.

As Internet orders of flowers have increased, Beall said she began working with a "wire service" flower company, Teleflora, in order to help sales. About one-third of her sales end up coming from Teleflora, she said, which has its own corporate specials and vases for Valentine's Day and other holidays.

Wendy Vaught, a manager at the Flower Box, said about one-third of sales come from the two wire services. Along with Teleflora, the Flower Box also works with Florists' Transworld Delivery, another wire service which pairs with local flower shops.

"That's definitely the direction everybody's going in," Vaught said of Internet orders.

This year is just as busy as last year, Vaught said, however this year there were more early orders. The Flower Box had a promotion for those who ordered flowers early which increased business, she said.

Beall said the other local flower shops may be competition, but she's more productive because of it - and all of the other stores are friendly with each other.

"To me, we're all friends, we all help each other. If I don't have something the first thing I do is call them," Beall said.

Beall said she anticipates there will be a line out the door on Valentine's Day filled with men who just procrastinated. Some of them will end up at a big box grocery store like Giant, which Beall said she's fine with.

"You can't compete with grocery stores. Their quality is different than our quality and their prices are better," she said.

Beall said her roses come from Ecuador, which means they're larger. People who run into the grocery stores are busy, she said, and a big factor in business to a small store like Flowers by Evelyn is the ability to deliver the flowers.

Tuesday afternoon, Victoria Robinson, of Sykesville, helped make corsages and boutonnieres for a father-daughter dance that will occur just after Valentine's Day.

"We're just doing it early so we don't run out of flowers. By Friday, we will be out," Robinson said.

Beall said currently, there are 6,000 flowers delivered to Flowers by Evelyn twice a day from wholesalers in Baltimore, Delaware and New York.

"We're little, but mighty," Beall said.