Local flower shops struggle due to COVID-19
September 25, 2020
Local flower shops are doing all that they can to stay afloat after several months of canceled events.
Jerry Brooks, owner of Jerry’s Flower Shoppe in Carbondale, said sales went down right when everything closed in March and they have been trying to recover since.
“When the governor closed so many businesses down it was devastating,” Brooks said. “It was our prime spring season of the year and lost all of those holidays.”
According to Brooks, he and his employees sometimes wouldn’t even go into work because they had nothing to come in for. At one point in early spring, they stayed home for a period of ten days, then returned to work in April with a bit of business.
“It was just daily things. People sending other people flowers for various occasions,” Brooks said. “Things like ‘Hope you get through this,’ and ‘Get well’ and anniversaries.”
Brooks said at first, they weren’t allowed to deliver flowers to hospitals, but now they can as long as they have their temperatures taken and go through a symptom screening process.
Brooks started the flower shop when he was 21-years-old with the help of his parents and has been in Carbondale for 55 years. The only other time something like this had affected his business was when a series of riots broke out in Carbondale back in the 1970s, around Mother’s Day.
“Well, we’re doing pretty good right now we’re back up in sales comparable for the same time last year,” Brooks said. “There’s just so much that went down the drain in the meantime that it’s difficult to recover the recoup and try to get everything caught up.”
Steve Conder, owner of Weller the Florist, has been operating his business for 40 years and said nothing like this has ever affected his business before.
The small amount of business he did get was for birthdays since people couldn’t see their families at parties. But, Conder said Mother’s Day was rough since senior citizen homes wouldn’t take his flowers with the fear of spreading COVID-19 through them.
“We couldn’t deliver there because they were afraid our flowers had COVID,” Conder said. “So people [were] going a little over extreme on it and after people start to know what the thing [COVID-19] is, then we started getting our business slowly coming back.”
At first, when Conder would make his deliveries, he would leave their arrangement on the porch and call them to let them know it’s there, eliminating face-to-face interaction with any customers. Now he can make deliveries with face masks on.
Conder said at the beginning of the pandemic, similar to Brooks, he didn’t go into the shop for several days following Gov. JB Pritzker’s state-wide stay at home orders, and if he did he would make the deliveries and go right back home.
Conder runs his business by himself, and he said this has put a lot of stress on him, even to the point of affecting his health.
“It was very stressful. I ended up having a stroke,” Conder said. “I don’t think it was because of COVID; there were other things that led up to it. But that was a lot of stress.”
Conder said he was up three percent in sales from January to February, and in March sales dropped 87 percent, and he has been trying to recover the best he can.
Conder predicts that it will take a year and a half to recover for what he lost.
Emily Smith is one of the owners of the family business Cinnamon Lane Flowers and Gifts that has been in Murphysboro since 2008; and as the pandemic’s impacts on businesses grew more serious, their business started slowing down.
“We were still good as far as business went, we were scared. Just kind of nervous about what was going to happen,” Smith said. “But as far as the business aspect, we were still good, we were still getting a lot of orders and so that didn’t really affect us very much.”
Smith said as business slowed down during the spring and early summer, it started to affect their revenue, especially around fall time when Murphysboro would have their annual apple festival.
“I had a couple with a private small wedding ceremony that they just bought flowers in bulk or they just had the bridal bouquet and that was it,” Smith said. “But it wasn’t near as much as what we would usually have. So, we’re definitely feeling a great loss.”
Smith said she can’t predict when the business will recover from their debt; they’re just hoping for the best and that business will start to come back over time.
Cinnamon Lane Flowers and Gifts remain active on their Facebook page as well, updating customers with videos and photos of their arrangements available for sale.
“I’m just trying to stay as positive as possible and waiting for things to get back to normal if they ever get back to normal,” Smith said. “We’ve not been able to get plants through COVID. I think we’ll definitely recover, it will just take some time.”
Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @jamilahlewis.