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Coming up roses: Behind the scenes of the biggest day of the year for flowers



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A bouquet of roses rests in Mary M's Walnut House Flowers awaiting delivery. The store has 209 deliveries scheduled for Valentine's Day. Emily Eckelbarger Buy Photos

Jamie Sciscoe has lost track of how many hours she’s worked this week. 

For Sciscoe, the owner of Mary M’s Walnut House Flowers on Second Street, the days leading up to Valentine’s Day are some of the busiest of the year, along with Mother’s Day. She arrives at the store at 6 a.m. and works into the evening to handle the volume of orders. The store will handle 209 deliveries, in addition to the foot traffic coming through the store.

On Valentine’s Day, the store has long lines of customers desperate for last-minute bouquets, but the store will also be busy in the days after the holiday as customers stop to buy belated conciliatory gifts.

“There will be, lined up out the door, lots of men that come in last minute,” Floral Designer Linda Flagg said. “And they do not mind at all to stand in line.”

In contrast with the last-minute shoppers, Sciscoe works far ahead to prepare for the season. She orders roses two months in advance to ensure Mary M’s will have enough. The roses, which come in bundles of 25 – enough to make two bouquets of a dozen roses with one rose left over, just in case – are flown in from Ecuador. 

The store will handle 14,800 roses this week. With so many flowers in the store, Sciscoe said they turn on three air conditioners to keep the store cool enough to preserve the flowers.

Sometimes, though, nature intervenes and the extensive planning is moot. When Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September 2017, the greenery Mary M’s uses as its filler foliage was damaged. The remaining crop quadrupled in price, and the quality is just now improving, Sciscoe said.

Other than a delayed order of roses, there have been relatively few hiccups this year, Sciscoe said.

“If that’s the worse thing that happens," she said, "we’ll be fine."

Still, it takes lots of manpower to pull it off. Sciscoe’s father, brothers and sister buzz around the store, as well as employees and a handful of family friends who volunteer their time. 

“I don’t think I could do it without everybody’s help,” she said.

Kenny Sciscoe, Jamie’s brother, says the people are the best part of the business.

“Seeing the customers come in – you get to talk to them, you get to know them a little bit,” he said. “It’s always nice to help people and watch them walk out with a little smile.” 

Apprentice Mary O’Hanlon says the people coming in and out of the store makes the job feel like being a bartender or hairdresser because customers buy flowers for all reasons, from births and marriages to funerals. 

“You see everything in life," O'Hanlon said. "The celebrations. The disappointments. It’s the saddest and happiest of all situations in life, and this makes it better one way or another. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else today.”

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