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Flower shop among many businesses fighting to blossom

Flower shop among many businesses fighting to blossom

Columbia Florist co-owner Katherine Capsis prepares an order for a customer two days ahead of Mother’s Day. The West 231st Street flower shop has managed to stay open even though many of its neighbors closed temporarily in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Mother’s Day is an important holiday, allowing people from all walks of life to demonstrate their love and gratitude for the maternal figures in their lives.

Flowers typically are a well-received gift for a mother as a way to communicate appreciation. But then again, these aren’t typical times.

With a Mother’s Day brunch sitting down at a sidewalk café completely out of the question, many sons and daughters were forced to look for celebration alternatives. Especially since flower shops aren’t exactly considered an “essential” business under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statewide coronavirus shutdown.

But that’s not stopping Columbia Florist, which has been perched near the corner of West 231st Street and Broadway for more than 60 years. For at least half that time, the shop’s been helmed by Connie Dennis, who co-owns the business with her sister.

The state might say florists are non-essential, but on holiday weekends like Mother’s Day, they couldn’t be more essential. Flowers are a great way to brighten someone’s day, Dennis said. And during times like this, it seems everyone’s day could be a little brighter.

“Sending a flower puts a smile on someone else’s face,” she said. It “tells them that you are thinking about them.”

While it’s not exactly business as usual for florists, recent orders for Columbia have included birthdays, anniversaries, and as greetings or sympathies to loved ones. Some customers have used flowers in place of their own physical presence, since social distancing has kept many family members apart.

Mother’s Day is usually a high earning holiday for florists like Columbia. These days, however, even that holiday competes with the funeral floral arrangements Dennis and her sister must craft. And for a business that stays away from the mourning aspects of the pandemic, Dennis finds more customers want deliveries, rather than stopping by themselves to pick up orders.

That has sent Columbia delivery drivers throughout New York City, as well as New Jersey, Westchester County and Connecticut.

Those are some tall orders, especially since social distancing requirements limits the number of workers allowed in the small shop.

“We cannot have many people working in the store, so it has been busier for us,” Dennis said. “Most of the time it has just been my sister, myself and one worker. I have even been taking deliveries out myself.”

Sales have dipped, but so have supplies in some cases. In late March, as many were trying to adjust to the “new normal,” Columbia struggled to stock its flower inventory, both in quantity and variety. For example, one thing missing from the store’s offerings has been tulips. Fortunately, most flowers purchased from South America are still available, Dennis said.

Pricing hasn’t changed much, but delivery costs have increased since the shop is going without its regular delivery staff.Flowers also are a crucial part […]

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