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Tropical flower shop back in business

Tropical flower shop back in business

Hawaii’s governor granted an exemption to the state’s Covid-19 stay-at-home order to allow florists to reopen in time for Mother’s Day last month, but Sadie Akamine is pretty sure her Picket Fence Florist was the only shop not to open.

In late April, Gov. David Ige gave florists statewide permission to reopen on May 1 after being closed since late March, giving them 10 days to prepare for the Mother’s Day rush and graduations after that.

But Akamine decided not to chance it.

“I felt it wasn’t time for us,” said Akamine, even though the month of May is one of the biggest revenue producers for any floral business. “The rest of the state wasn’t going to open up.”

Akamine reopened her shop on June 1 after being closed for two-and-a-half months, posting photos of herself and customers wearing masks and social distancing on the shop’s Facebook page and a Kailua community page.

Akamine has been in the flower business for 46 years and in the same location for 41 years — she opened her first Picket Fence Florist in Kaneohe in 1974 and moved to Hekili Street in Kailua five years later.

Akamine said her longtime customers were “very, very, very supportive” during the Covid-19 shutdown. While most customers are local residents, she also supplies flowers to Adventist Health Castle hospital, churches and local businesses.

“Some people buy flowers just to support us,” she said. “They become friends, too, after a while, not just customers.”

Akamine kept her six employees — three full-time and three part-time — on the payroll with the help of a Payroll Protection Program loan from Central Pacific Bank. She has a longtime relationship with her employees as well — her manager has been with the business 27 years and designers have been with her more than 10 years. Her three part-time workers handle the deliveries.

Akamine said her landlord, Alexander & Baldwin, offered to defer rent payments, prorating them out to the end of next year, but Akamine decided not to take advantage of that. Instead, she applied to the City and County of Honolulu’s Small Business Relief and Recovery Fund, which is being administered through four credit unions, for one month’s rent — and she said received a check in the mail.

During the shutdown, Akamine focused on running her business from her home office, arranging online orders of to be shipped locally and to the Mainland direct from vendors, including Pacific Floral Exchange, a tropical flower farm in Keaau on Hawaii Island.

Akamine works with about 30 vendors. About half of the flowers in her shop are traditional Mainland flowers, and half are tropical flowers grown in Hawaii at farms in Waimanalo and other islands, as well as puakenikeni and pikake flowers from backyard growers around Windward Oahu.

Many of those small vendors are retirees who rely on that income, she said. How have you adapted your business? The biggest change is the way we do deliveries. Before, we would hand deliver our product and get a signature. Now, we call first and […]

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