Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Growing up: Floral business in its prime during Valentine’s week

Growing up: Floral business in its prime during Valentine’s week

JIM GAINAN Growing up | Posted: Sunday, February 7, 2010 12:00 am

For some reason, this column proved to be one of the most difficult for me to commit to paper.  Conflicting thoughts about the topic I had assigned to this day on my calendar have swirled in my head for about a week.  You’d think with that much time, clarity would eventually emerge. So far, no luck, but here goes. 

A quick Google search for “Valentine’s Day” yielded literally 57 million results with the Wikipedia definition first and then the IMDb listing for Garry Marshall’s latest movie “Valentine’s Day” set to hit theaters on Friday February 12th.  The movie caught my procrastinating eye.  As I perused the listing, watched trailers, read the spoilers and checked out cast, I was amused by the advertisements for other movies that littered the web page. 

The first that popped up was “Dear, John”, then “The Break-Up”.  I had to click off the page before “Kramer vs. Kramer” appeared, which would have completely burst my bubble.  Obviously the programmers understand the power of the antonym.

After reading on, I realized the tag line “A Love Story. More or Less” was the perfect way to reduce such a complicated topic in to a few words.  The synopsis of the movie is depicted as “Intertwining couples and singles in Los Angeles break-up and make-up based on the pressures and expectations of Valentine’s Day”. One of the characters in the movie is Reed Bennett, played by Ashton Kutcher.  As a florist in Los Angeles, Bennett appears to be involved at least tangentially with all of the ups and downs the power packed casts’ experience on February 14th.

One thing about this business that insiders always say is “Valentine’s Day in a flower shop... You have never seen anything like it”.  It’s really the truth.  I remember my first Valentine’s Day Eve as a new employee of the store in 1990, leaving at 3 A.M., scheduled to return 3 hours later for my shift.  Fortunately, I lived in the apartments across the street, so the short commute allowed for a couple extra minutes of shut-eye. The next morning, there was a box with a red sweater in it from my Mom and Mick that I threw on and ran back across the street for what was to be one of the most amazing days ever.

The energy of Valentine’s Day was incredible and the clientele different than usual.  Many customers, most of them men, some in suits and others in shop clothes, walked around the store looking dazed and confused but strangely comfortable  “shooting the breeze” with each other as Mick would say. 

Our manager at the time, Pat Colberg, said it was our job to help these men pick something out that would make their Valentine’s very happy. She was definitely the authority that day.  She was able to make our sales floor, who was experiencing 200 times the amount of normal business, flow like a symphony.  Well, at least she made it feel like one. I thought, “OK, this will be easy. They’re all going to want a dozen red roses.  Let’s get started!”  She said, “Some will, but others will want our help because this is foreign territory for them and we need to make sure that get just the right thing”.  Happy wife, happy life.  Right?

As the day progressed I realized these men were putting a lot more thought into their choices than I thought they would.  Some were looking for calla lilies or gerbera daisies because they were their wive’s favorite flowers.  Others spent what seemed like hours looking for the perfect card and even longer writing the perfect note.  Some were there to pick out flowers and candy to have delivered to their children.  My favorite sale that day was to a guy who was going to propose that night.  He asked that we secure the engagement ring in the center of one of the roses in the 36 rose arrangement he would give his girl that night.

After that hectic first holiday experience at the store, I was hooked.  On this, the morning of my 20th Valentine’s Week, I look forward to the chaos knowing that I’ll be a part of making someone’s day.  From the customer who has everything perfectly planned, ordered early with very specific requests to the one who calls on Friday and says “Can you still get something delivered for Valentine’s Day?” I’ll enjoy being able to say, “Yes”. As long as he calls by 2pm, of course!

This year we expect red roses to be popular choices.  But, colored roses, oriental and stargazer lilies are running a close second.  Of course the most important thing given on Valentine’s Day can’t be bought.  The flowers are just the cherry on top.

Back to the movie, Kutcher is expected to net ten million plus 10 percent of the gross profit for playing Reed Bennett.  I would have done it for five!  Happy Valentine’s Week.