Alex Avdoulos’s hand quickly flicks leaves off of a stem of a flower. Within ten seconds she finishes a 12-inch stem as if it were nothing. Her cat, Lucy, purrs around her feet before hopping onto the front desk to greet customers. The front of the store is slowly filling with colorful bouquets of roses – white, pink, yellow, orange – that mimic a summer sunset instead of a bitterly cold February. But for Avdoulos, this is one of the best times of the year.
Although Valentine’s Day is known as a romantic holiday to spend with your loved ones, there is one undeniable fact – it’s a big day for business, especially for florists like Avdoulos’s shop, Petals and Roots, in Astoria.
In a 2018 study by the National Retail Federation, 35.6 percent of those polled plan to buy flowers for Valentine’s Day. UPS reported that they will ship 88 million flowers and the average consumer will spend $41.48 for their loved one.
Many local florists rely on the big day to boost revenues—and they hope that their personalized services will set them apart from the mass-bought flowers from your corner bodega. According to the retail federation, only 17 percent of people polled will pick up their bouquets at a florist, others will opt for grocery stores or other mass retailers. At Petals and Roots, the task began almost a week earlier when the staff of about five started pruning roses, picking off dead leaves and trimming stems. By last Friday, about 1,000 roses were freshly delivered and were being prepared for the coming crowds.
“Our profits almost double every year,” says Avdoulos, owner of Petals and Roots. “We can only make the pre-orders so far in advance because they have to stay fresh.”
Typically, most of their sales are made by pre-orders, and this year, they got over 100. But the shop on 31st street gets a lot of foot traffic on Valentine’s Day too, says Avdoulos.
Last year, Avdoulos and Julia D’Angelo, a 31-year-old employee of the shop, only got three hours of sleep the night before the big day because they were so busy preparing orders. But D’Angelo doesn’t seem to mind.
“I actually like working Valentine’s Day because I get to interact with all the people coming in,” D’Angelo says. “It is really busy, but it’s really fun.”
When they get in a shipment of flowers, they go through each flower, making sure that all of them look good. They let them soak, making sure the flower maintains good moisture retention. Remaining flowers are constantly picked at and pruned. The product results in an almost flawless arrangement.
For most of the year, the store’s sales mainly come from events, especially weddings. These weddings eventually translate into passionate repeat customers, and more often than not the florist becomes a fixture of celebration throughout their lives, says Avdoulos. She even has a customer that moved to Oyster Bay that will only buy flowers from Petals and Roots.
Although Avdoulos’s cheery attitude and passion for flowers like Japanese sweet peas and Italian reneculas bring in a steady customer base, her business practices also help to make her reliable and organized. Those skills help her make the most of Valentine’s Day demand.
“I haven’t sold out completely [on Valentine’s Day] yet,” she says. “But I’ve gotten pretty close. When I order, I base how much I get on last year’s sales, plus an additional 20 percent. I put out a lot of money, almost all of my money, but it’s worked out well so far.”
Her well-organized schedule, passionate employees and dedicated customer base are what keeps them going during busy times like Valentine’s Day. But just because this mid-week holiday will be over soon doesn’t mean business is going to die down. “I have five events in the week and a half after Valentine’s day,” Avdoulos said last Friday, as she put the finishing touches on a boutonnière for a wedding.