While lovers and couples have been making plans for a romantic Valentine’s Day, Napa florists have been gearing up for the one day of the year when just about everybody wants flowers.
Floral shop owners Jackie Collar with BJ's Petal Pushers, Sal ("The Flower Guy") Chamas of , John Prittie with and Gary Garaventa of agreed that it's a real challenge to buy such a large quantity of flowers, arrange them and deliver them on a single day.
“We usually have about 300 orders for Valentine’s Day, compared to our daily orders of 25 to 30,” Collar said.
“It’s always a big push to get the ton of flowers ready for delivery. And usually most of the flowers are gone by the end of the day,” she continued.
“We get some late orders from husbands, boyfriends and sons who forgot Valentine’s Day and want to get out of the dog house.”
To deal with the huge number of orders, florists have hired extra help and are working longer hours.
Collar said she brings in extra floral designers and delivery drivers.
"We normally have two to three designers and drivers. The number increases to between five and six," she said.
Prittie said he hires temporary help in organizing, stocking, arranging and clean up, and works extra hours himself.
“You do your average business day after day and then Valentine’s Day comes, and we do as much business in a few days as we normally do in a month,” said Prittie, whose wife does the buying at the San Francisco Flower Market.
“She has been going to the market for 20 years. She has a great relationship with the growers. She makes sure she buys only the freshest and the best quality flowers,” Prittie said. “We try to buy specific amounts based on our sales and the economy.”
Red roses take the lead in Valentine’s Day sales at Beau Fleurs, where a dozen cost $89.95, Prittie said.
“We would rather not charge more for Valentine’s Day, but the growers have to raise their prices because of the volume of flowers they grow and the cost to deliver them to the market,” he said. “And that cost is passed onto us.”
Garaventa has been in the floral business for 52 years, 42 of them in Napa.
He describes Valentine’s Day as one very hectic workday.
“We have a very short time to arrange and deliver 200 to 300 arrangements. On a daily basis we deliver 20 to 30. But Valentine’s Day is a one-day shot," Garaventa said.
“We give the customers the best we can. Once we hit a saturation point, we can’t do much more. We only take so many orders and deliver them in a certain amount of time.”
Garaventa said about 80 percent of Valentine's Day flower buyers are men.
The average price depends on what the customer wants to spend, he said.
“Red roses are the top seller for Valentine’s Day. The customer can buy a single rose for $5 or three dozen roses ranging up to $200.”
Chamas is cutting back on costs by engaging his family to help out with the Valentine frenzy.
“The economy is bad, so I try to keep the prices down I charge my customers,” Chamas said. “To make it more affordable, we have $20 bouquets.”
Chamas said the roses he buys from the San Francisco Flower Market are shipped from Ecuador.
“Men buy most of the flowers for Valentine’s Day," he continued.
"Since Valentine’s Day is on a Monday this year, we will probably make most of the deliveries to the workplace. The men like to impress their lady friends."
Some of the leftover flowers get a second chance: “One year I sold the leftovers for $1 a bouquet. It was crazy, people were fighting over them,” Chamas said.
“I am hoping it will be a good Valentine’s Day. I am hoping to get at least 100 orders.”
In downtown Napa, shoppers said there's more to Valentine's Day than roses - and more to romance than Valentine's Day.
Napan George Wilson said flowers are not the only thing he does to please “the love of my life.
"Last year I cooked a killer dinner for us with prime rib, Caesar salad, baked potatoes and of course a fine Napa Valley wine,” Wilson said.
For Mike Lynch and his sweetheart, it seems, every day is Valentine's Day:
“My girlfriend is so special and wonderful, I don’t wait for just one day to pamper her and tell her how much I love her,” Lynch said.