Deborah De La Flor has been a florist for over 40 years. She has never known a month of February like this.
“The moment someone sends you an ‘I love you’ card, someone sends you an ‘I love you’ card,” said De La Flor, who prepares bouquets and cards for Valentine’s Day. – the busiest and most profitable time of year for florists – while ensuring that other orders are filled for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
De La Flor, 62, runs De La Flor Florist & Gardens near Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Three thousand miles from Los Angeles, flower merchant Fernando Perata has helped more than 100 families in the past two months who have lost a family member to the coronavirus. Many grieving families were long-time clients.
“One day you see this client, the next day they are gone,” said Perata, 23. He described a mother who for years bought flowers for her children. Recently, her son and daughter arrived to buy roses for their mother’s funeral.
Perata works in a Los Angeles flower-selling neighborhood bordering Skid Row and the Fashion District, where 3-foot funeral crosses made of roses and rose-white angel wings on easels line the sidewalk next door. valentine’s day flowery teddy bears.
The $ 35 billion flower industry is perhaps more involved than any other in the joy, heartbreak, and family milestones. Flower vendors are approaching Valentine’s Day on February 14 with a COVID-19 death toll in the United States of nearly 460,000. In many states, death rates are still hitting daily records.
Mark Chatoff, 56, CEO of California Flower Mall, one of the nation’s largest markets, in downtown Los Angeles, said when California imposed its first lockdown in March, some florists closed their doors because weddings, graduations, conventions and other big events are gone. Most of the night. Then came the pandemic funeral.
This month, Chatoff said, “it’s both Valentine’s Day and funeral. We have been busy because of the funeral. It’s bittersweet. We’re busy for the wrong reasons. “
Maria Alvarez, 25, a flower seller in Los Angeles, said her directors at David’s Flowers had been forced to turn away families looking for funeral flowers due to Valentine’s Day demand.
“It’s sad. It breaks our hearts. It’s really hard to tell a family that we can’t make flowers for their funeral,” Alvarez said. “We know a lot of them. They send a family member to the hospital, a few days later they passed away. They tell us their stories. They are heartbroken.
Alvarez said it was also difficult to tell mourners how much funeral flowers cost. Due to a tight supply and huge demand, prices for funeral wreaths have jumped from $ 85 to $ 120 in just a few weeks.
“A lot of these families don’t have a job. It’s a lot of money for them. We want to help them and give them the initial price, but we can’t. Flowers are so expensive right now. “
According to the Society of American Florists, the largest trade group representing the United States’ flower industry, most flowers sold in the country are imported from Ecuador and Mexico.
The surge in orders in recent months, many of them online, has strained the supply chain. This has led to a lack of space on planes and trucks to deliver enough flowers on time, said Christina Stembel, founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers, a national flower e-commerce company.
Ken Freytag, 67, has run a family-owned florist business in Austin, Texas for over 40 years. He says he’s generally optimistic, but this month has been tough – not least because his son, daughter and grandchildren have COVID-19.
Freytag and its nearly 50 employees proofread each card to be sent before printing it and including it with flower orders.
“A lot of them are sympathy cards,” he said. “I understand what these families are going through. We are a business of emotions.”
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