Weather creates Valentine's Day chaos for new florist

Thursday, February 14, 2008
Floral designer Becky Engert placed roses in an arrangement Wednesday at Sweetheart Florist of Jackson.
(Kit Doyle)

On any other Valentine's Day Tammy Ahlvin would love to relish in the pageantry. This year, she just wants it to be over.

Ahlvin bought Sweetheart Florists in Jackson in January. She worked in medical billing and wanted something more creative.

"Normally I like being around flowers," Ahlvin said Wednesday as she sifted through orders for flower arrangements, getting ready to go on another delivery. "This is chaos. ... I expected the lights to be on."

Generators chugged loudly from outside as she answered the phones and took more orders for Valentine's Day roses and carnations.

Extension chords hung from the ceiling where fluorescent lights had been strung up with chains. The power in the shop had been out since Monday night because of the ice storm. With the power still out Wednesday, the staff shuffled around in coats and sock hats trying to keep up with the holiday rush.

Stacy Roth filled balloons Wednesday, February 13, 2008, in preparation for the Valentine's Day rush at Sweetheart Florist of Jackson on High Street. Roth, a junior at Jackson High who came in to help because school was canceled, and others worked with limited power from a generator as the shop still had no electricity. (Kit Doyle)

"Today's going to be an unusual one with no power and no heat," Rita Whaley said.

Tuesday night the crew worked by candlelight to do as much prework as possible like setting up the vases with greenery and baby's breath.

"It's really fun in here on Valentine's Day. It's just really stressful," said Becky Engert as she weaved her way around the dozens of buckets filled with water and flowers sitting throughout the workspace and front room of the shop.

Normally those flowers would be in the coolers, but the thermometers in them read at around 60 degrees, while the shop itself was more like 45.

"You know it's bad when the cooler is warmer than the rest of the place," Whaley said. Her niece, Stacy Roth, a junior at Jackson High School, came to help because school had been canceled.

Any helping hand was welcomed as the staff tried to organize an attack plan for the big day. Orders that need to be delivered the morning of Feb. 14 are finished by the afternoon of Feb. 13.

After filling specific orders, the florists fill display coolers with an assortment of arrangements for those last-minute lovers, Engert said. She owned the shop for the years before Ahlvin bought it. She's been through her fair share of Valentine's Days.

"It's all about time," she said. "The key to a successful Valentine's Day is your drivers."

Ahlvin plans on delivering the Cape Girardeau orders herself. "I've lived in Cape all my life, so I know it pretty well," she said.

She was delivering flowers until 10 p.m. Wednesday and had extra drivers coming in today -- "friends that have nominated themselves to come in," she said.

She planned on sending the drivers in shifts and hitting the farthest areas -- like Bollinger County -- late in the day.

"I wouldn't want to drive to Marble Hill twice in one day, so we kind of wait until later in the day," she said, ducking under an extension cord.

The shop still sat dark Wednesday evening while surrounding businesses basked under their working lights.

"It's just luck of the draw," said Denny Hurst, who was helping out for the holiday. Hurst had wired the lighting and stripped long-stem roses that morning.

"After tomorrow we'll be all right," Whaley said. She planned on using this experience as perspective in the future.

"Next year we'll look back and laugh," she said.

335-6611, extension 246

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