About that floral shop dream that I have… I’ve been working on it! I think I have this urge to try everything because I don’t want to miss out. Oh. When I say everything, I don’t mean skydiving, running a marathon, or cleaning on a schedule. I have my limits, and I know what I can’t (or don’t want to) do. I must think if I might be able to do something pleasant that’d also be beneficial, I should try it.
Backing up a little (okay, a LOT), I knew the second I turned 16 I wanted to work, because my sisters did. They had money and could drive places and buy stuff. So I wanted to do that too. Walmart was job number 1. I worked there for Black Friday on the registers, and they also made me a door greeter. Yep, looking back, I don’t know that it is wise to have a 16-year-old smile encouragingly at every person to walk into Walmart. It was alright, but I quit not long after Christmas.
Soon I applied to the floral shop. The owner looked me up and down and decided I would be an okay fit. She kept dance pictures from students under a glass table cover by the register. One of the few things to do in our small town was to pore over the photos while pretending not to loiter. She was and is still a brilliant business owner. Her shop put the two other floral shops in town out of business. She was precise, pragmatic, and completely stressed out. We got minimum wage, but we felt privileged to work there since she was highly selective of her staff. It was also a plus to go home or on dates smelling of flowers and not of the local pizza shop like some of our friends. She had the whole town for their floral needs, and she was BUSY.
For some reason, I remember a lot of the business insights she would share. The largest of the money drivers were funerals. Casket sprays and paper mache container arrangements were huge, and costly. There were boutonnières to be made, and occasionally pin on corsages. Aside from all that, there were dozens of sympathy arrangements that were ordered through the floral shop. Weddings, of course, brought a happier feel. Only the owner and her top two assistants were allowed to do the bouquets for the bride and bridesmaid. A select few others could do corsages, and the lowest could do or help with boutonnières, centerpieces, and cake flowers. Holidays were also a consistent fuel for business. Mother’s Day was number one, followed by Valentine’s Day, then Christmas. Mother’s Day was maneagable because many customers ordered throughout the week, because the shop was closed on Sundays. Valentine’s was a different story. Most husbands, boyfriends, and other significant others knew very well that the bouquet of two dozen roses should be received on Valentine’s Day. No other day would do.
On the day before and of Valentine’s Day, I worked 23 hours.
Of course, there were dances. This was my most favorite occasion. The orders would come in throughout the week, and on Friday we knew that we would stay late and put everything together. There was basically an assembly line of people at long tables. The owner would invite a few of her friends to come help on those nights. Some of us would wire flowers, others would tie ribbon, some would put together the boutonnieres, and the owner and her assistants would do the corsages. It would be really exciting to see which girl’s corsage they were working on. It was such a small town, so we all were familiar with almost each and every order. When they were for dances I was attending, they wouldn’t show me the corsage until after it was done, and then I would gasp with delight at the finished product.
We also did small arrangements for the cooler at the grocery store (I got to do those), “basket gardens” made from floral foam and shorter flowers, new baby arrangements, get well soon flowers, sympathy arrangements, and ready-made cooler arrangements for customers in a hurry. We were also taught to do cellophane wrap arrangements, which were really fun, because you didn’t have the pressure of making them stand up perfectly in the vase. There were presentation flowers for events like Junior Miss or other events. Of course, there was always a strong clientele of meek-looking men, with what I assumed were angry-looking wives at home.
It was a hard job. We were never quite doing things right for a while, the assistant manager yelled at us a lot, we had plenty of grunt work, and we had to keep things perfect. The stress level in the floral shop was usually to a tangible level, and it was difficult to stay cheerful if there was a negative vibe. However, the flowers tended to fight the negativity with an almost magical power. All I needed for the assistant manager to get off my case was for her to find a challenging floral arranging task as a distraction.
It was worth the discomforts, at least for a while. My fingers always smelled like springtime, I got to see or even create arrangements that were going to friends at school, and it was a great place for lightweight gossip. There was a lot of laughing and chatter. The owner was a good teacher, and kept at it patiently. Every arrangement seemed to take me forever, but once the boss gave me an okay, I felt so much pride. Friends and even adult neighbors would express jealousy over my “dream job.” Although I would shake my head at the inaccurate cliché that working a floral shop is easy, I look back and see how much that job taught me about hard work. It helped solidify the awesome background I had from growing up.
Eventually, graduation came. I had to leave Idaho, partly to escape a bad relationship, and partly to embark upon new adventures. I quit and excitedly sped off to college where I earned a degree in teaching and psychology. And now it seems that I have come full circle. I am so lucky that I can currently be a stay at home mom. However, I’m always thinking of ways I can contribute even a little to the home income.
The first time I had my very own floral order, I spent way more than I earned. I had to get tools, floral tape, wire, embellishments, ribbon, and fresh flowers. The second time was the same, and the third time I came out about even. This time I had 7 orders and made some money! When I finally finished, I sat there, exhausted and sore. There was glitter on my face, glue on my fingertips, cracks in my hands, a piece of rice on my shirt, and my eye was twitching. The floor had headless rose stems, dozens of leaves, trimmed off ribbon and wire. As I looked back at the planning, running around, and time actually creating, I realized I probably came out with less than I did as a 16 year old in the flower shop.
This is no surprise to me. I am not undercharging – my clients are quite generous to even try me out given my rusty skills and insecurities. Being a floral designer is expensive. It can turn a profit, but it is like other small businesses. It takes a lot of money initially, a good, consistent, clientele, talent, and so much patience. It won’t make someone extremely rich, unless they take a risky, different spin on it. A lot of Saturdays were spent working, and it was difficult for the owner of the floral shop to get away. It was her home away from home.
I’m glad I started this off gently so it could become a small representation of what life would hold for me were I to really open a floral shop one day. It’s easy to picture as a cute, quaint existence, but there would be blood and tears. Probably sweat, too, but the floral smell world cover that up. The question is all about amount of passion. Now is not the time to open a storefront. However, I may one day feel the excitement to own a shop despite all the challenges it’ll bring. For now, it is a cool thing to do at home for fun.