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Published: Thursday, 2/15/2007

Elements foil florists, but results are still rosy

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER
Bill Asendorf, of Joe Cooper Florist, carries an order of Valentine's Day flowers to a customer on Grand Valley Road in Maumee yesterday. Deliveries were stymied by the weather. Bill Asendorf, of Joe Cooper Florist, carries an order of Valentine's Day flowers to a customer on Grand Valley Road in Maumee yesterday. Deliveries were stymied by the weather.
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It was the perfect - make that imperfect - storm for florists yesterday.

Valentine's Day is the biggest single day for flower sales nationally, and area florists had thousands of orders but were handicapped by a huge winter storm and restrictions on driving on the region's highways.

Still, most managed to cope, by sending some flowers out a day early, arranging to send some out today, a day late, and seeing some walk-in business after the Level 3 driving restriction was lifted yesterday afternoon. But still, walk-ins were a lot less than on a normal Valentine's Day.

"We're not getting much out today," said Becky Pegorsch, owner of Lee Winters Florist in Maumee and in the Spitzer Arcade in downtown Toledo. She had "a couple hundred" orders and hopes to salvage 95 percent of them thanks to customers opting for day-late delivery.

"If not, we lose," she said. "Flowers are perishable. That's the chance you take."

Americans spend $16.9 billion on the lover's day, and two years ago nearly $400 million was spent on cut flowers, including at least $39 million on roses.

Bill Asendorf completes his mission: Delivering the flowers in Maumee to Jude Aubry, who had ordered the flowers as a Valentine's Day gift for his wife. Bill Asendorf completes his mission: Delivering the flowers in Maumee to Jude Aubry, who had ordered the flowers as a Valentine's Day gift for his wife.
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Jeff Millns, president of Joe I Cooper Florist in South Toledo and in Waterville, called it a "challenging day," but not unprecedented. He recalled some very nasty Valentine's weather in the early 1980s, "but we didn't have to deal with Level 3 [restrictions] in those days."

A decade ago, Ohio's attorney general ruled that county sheriffs' departments can declare snow emergencies and temporarily close streets and highways. That was the case early yesterday in Lucas and Wood counties, as well as some other areas.

"We got as many orders out as we could Tuesday," said Mr. Millns. And yesterday, he lined up nine delivery people, fewer than the dozen he would use normally, but enough to get out the majority of his orders.

"You do the best you can," he said. "And most people are understanding."

Frank Viviano, owner of the three Bartz Viviano Flowers & Gifts shops in the area, said, "It was probably the worst-case scenario, not the best situation."

But he got about 20 drivers, fewer than he had hoped and far fewer than as many as the 50 he's had in the past.

While some people made it out to pick up their flowers, he typically has about 10 times as many people buying at his shops, he said.

He and other florists expect today to be very busy, both from the delivery and pick-up standpoint.

The florists are philosophical about the big storm. "You can't predict Mother Nature," said Mr. Millns.

Contact Homer Brickey at: homerbrickey@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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