EL CENTRO — Florists expressed thoughts about reopening their businesses after two months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to reopen business, but I don’t want to spread the virus,” said Cynthia Derma, owner of Cynthia’s Flower Connection in El Centro. “I want my employees back full time. I want people happy with their weddings and quinceñeras.”
According to Derma the positive cases of coronavirus were still climbing as people were being tested. “As long as we are still climbing, it’s scary. However, financially, we need to get back.”
Flowers have been a regular sight in important milestones of life including weddings, quinceñeras, birthdays, and deaths in the family, according to Derma. But these gatherings were prohibited. This was followed by cancelations of orders for floral arrangements.
Concern for her employees and customers was of paramount importance. “Realistically, we still need to be cautious to protect our families,” said Derma, who first opened her floral shop in 1992 in Imperial.
Sometime in March, when the governor mandated the lockdown of nonessential businesses, Derma lost about 90 percent of her potential earnings within two weeks. But the floral industry was reclassified to be essential. So, Derma opened for business, again, with some limitation guidelines.
According to Derma, she lost her five employees, changed the hours of operation, provided curbside delivery services only, and received orders either by phone or online.
“We need to get back to our business. Small business is the backbone of the USA. The government was not treating small businesses in the same manner as the big box stores. The small businesses were the ones taking the hit from the lockdown,” said Amy McCafferty, owner of Busy Bee Floral in Brawley.
According to McCafferty, she provides services to hospitals and funeral homes. “Events were happening in life even if the world was shut down.”
“Flowers make people smile,” McCafferty said. “They smell good, are a thoughtful gesture and express a sense of closure. The lockdown has caused a lot of depression.”
In addition to Carlsbad in San Diego, flowers originate from countries worldwide: roses from Ecuador, tulips from Holland, calla lilies and gladiolus from Mexico, and Colombia. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down or halted the shipping of flowers.
According to McCafferty, she lost potential earnings from wedding cancelations. And with schools closed — potential earnings from proms and graduations wilted.
McCafferty’s reevaluation of her business operations resulted in reducing her four employees down to a part time staff, with McCafferty doing the bulk of the work.
Noticing that many individuals, millennials in particular, were staying home and spending more time on social media — she resorted to using the online social media to her advantage.
“Millennials made their purchases based on what others were saying about a product or service. They buy based on reviews. So, our goal is to make customers look good and fantastic,” said McCafferty, who immersed herself learning about social media.
“The floral industry is dwindling,” said Derma. In 1992, there were 18 floral shops in Imperial Valley. In 2020, there are only seven left — one in Brawley, three in El Centro, and three in Calexico.
McCafferty said, “Businesses should be reopened with precaution for both owners and customers. We need the economy up and running.”