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Spokane-area florists stay ‘ahead of the game’ with busy Valentine’s Day despite pandemic

Chris Dalke, of Peters and Sons Flowers & Gift, looks out for traffic while loading his car for deliveries on Friday.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
Chris Dalke, of Peters and Sons Flowers & Gift, looks out for traffic while loading his car for deliveries on Friday. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

Susan Matteson has seen firsthand how unpredictable Valentine’s Day can be for florists.

Some years have involved preorders galore, said Matteson, co-owner of Peters and Sons Flowers in Spokane. Others, however, have been last-minute affairs.

“It’s funky. It sneaks up on people,” Matteson said Wednesday. “All of the sudden on Friday, they’re going to realize it’s Sunday and they haven’t done anything. We’ll get busier than we have been.”

By Friday afternoon, Matteson’s prediction was proven true.

The shop was busy the rest of the week, with three phones in Peters and Sons ringing for orders throughout Friday morning, she said. The shop also fielded customers through other means, including online and through Teleflora, a floral wire service.

“They just come and we fill them,” Matteson said. “We’re staying ahead of the game. We’re not getting buried and we’re not under the gun, so it’s a nice feeling.”

Folks are celebrating Valentine’s Day this weekend amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the holiday coming more than a year since the first U.S. coronavirus case was confirmed in Washington. Valentine’s Day also falls on a Sunday for the first time since 2016.

Notwithstanding the pandemic, Matteson said Peters and Sons was just as busy Friday as they were the Friday before Valentine’s Day five years ago.

In general, the shop has experienced COVID-19’s “trickle-down” effects the same as other area florists have, Matteson said. Restrictions on growing operations have limited the availability of certain flowers; Matteson said that has only impacted more minor products for Peters and Sons, as roses, lilies, “spring-y things” and other popular Valentine’s Day items are available.

The state’s gathering restrictions, meanwhile, have affected Peters and Sons’ business with weddings, funerals and corporate accounts, Matteson said, although funeral-related orders are picking up and wedding purchases do come in – just not for “the whole nine yards.”

Throughout the pandemic, the Spokane flower shop has seen more orders meant as pick-me-ups for others.

“We lost a lot, but it’s been really gratifying to prepare a lot of bouquets just to put a smile on somebody’s face,” she said. “It’s really been special to help them be able to do that.”

Ordering online or by phone has been an industry hallmark for florists for years. Many local florists have instituted extra sanitation protocols and mandated that their delivery drivers wear masks, including at Appleway Florist and Greenhouse.

Owner Monty Lewis said he feels business has been up over the past several months, including February, for the Spokane Valley flower shop because of those pre-established routines.

“It’s been a way for people to communicate with others with flowers since they can’t be there to hug and converse and do all those things,” Lewis said. “They can express all those feelings a different way.”

Another, albeit more familiar, wrinkle for area flower shops this Valentine’s Day is the cold weather.

Temperatures were recorded in the teens and low 20s late last week with frigid winds. Several florists said they were mindful of the weather, as leaving flowers on a porch in the cold for too long causes them to wilt and die.

Peters and Sons delivery drivers planned on taking less stock for their routes, Matteson said. This makes for more return trips, but the plants won’t be as exposed to cold air as they would normally.

For Valentine’s Day, Matteson said the shop ramped up staffing with retirees helping with deliveries.

“They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t feel comfortable and safe,” she said. “If they didn’t, they would say no and we would respect that.”

And while Appleway has had neighbors hold orders for customers in the past as needed, Lewis said that would be irresponsible given the pandemic.

Lewis said Valentine’s Day is historically less lucrative when the holiday falls on a Sunday partly due to travel plans typical of a three-day President’s Day weekend. And while he wasn’t sure how the pandemic would affect that trend this weekend, Lewis said business Friday was in step with last year thanks in part to orders outside of the more traditional romantic gestures.

“It may not be a traditional valentine to your wife or your girlfriend,” he said. “It can be to other family members as well because you can’t get together.”

Jim Alice, who co-owns Liberty Park Florist and Greenhouse in Spokane with his wife Kellee, said the Sunday holiday also affects how shops deliver Valentine’s orders, as weekdays make for more workplace deliveries.

Kellee Alice said Friday that business for Liberty Park was “not gangbusters crazy,” but steady. While they had an assortment of workplace deliveries, owners were also expecting walk-ins over the weekend, she said.

“It’s just kind of this gradual holiday,” Jim Alice said. “If it’s on Monday or Tuesday, you got one day basically and there it is. This spreads it out over time a bit more.”

Looking ahead, Jim Alice said Liberty Park is hoping for strong springtime sales once Valentine’s Day is in the books.

While the shop’s wedding and funeral business took a hit at the onset of COVID-19 in Washington, Jim Alice said Liberty Park experienced a boom in sales of gardening plant products with people spending more time at home.

“It was like Mother’s Day week every week for the six weeks,” he said.

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