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Valentine's Flowers With a Whiff of Originality


Marin Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA)

John Dugan
February 12, 2008

Birthdays are big and Mother's Day is bigger, but for Marin florists, no day brings in near the business of Valentine's Day.

Flower shops across the county have been taking delivery orders months in advance of Thursday's holiday.

The day is so crazy at Burns Florist in San Rafael that owner Lou Yanchunis will spend all Wednesday night preparing bouquets to be sent out. It's the Valentine's Day schedule Yanchunis has kept for years.

"We have 300-400 deliveries to make in a day," Yanchunis said. "We have four trucks, but we have to get our cousins, our friends and family to come help, we get so many orders. We work right through the night."

Yanchunis gets his flowers directly from a grower, and at $89.50 for a dozen roses in a vase, it's hardly the least expensive bouquet. Safeway offers a no-frills dozen roses for $22, and Costco is not far behind.

Yanchunis said a bouquet of roses isn't even his best seller. "Our top seller is a spring bouquet," Yanchunis said. "It's got iris, tulips, daffodils and other things. That's $40-$50 and it's much better than roses, in my opinion. It lasts a lot longer."

There's a reason growers can double the price of roses before Valentine's Day. Helen Gregory, owner of Bloomworks, shops in Greenbrae and San Anselmo, stocks up on roses before Valentine's Day every year. She's never failed to sell them all.

"I always sell out, and then I kick myself and think, 'I should have bought more,'" Gregory said. "But I'm a chicken. I don't want to be stuck with a bunch of roses no one bought."

San Rafael's Organic Style Ltd. ships more than 20 million roses a year, nearly a quarter of which are bought in the lead-up to Valentine's Day. The company offers more than 40 bouquets of roses through its Web site organicbouquet.com, ranging in price from $45-$80.

No bouquet stands out more than the World's Tallest Roses, sold through organicbouquet.com. For $250, romantics can buy a dozen of the 5-foot-tall roses. Two dozen go for $450.

The company produced 10,000 of the roses for February, all of which sold out nearly a week before Valentine's Day.

"We had a waiting list since last Valentine's Day that we just got caught up on," Organic Style Ltd. owner Gerald Prolman said. "Now we're into our waiting list for next year. These are roses for people who want to make a very big statement."

The gigantic roses grow in the mountainous jungles of Ecuador. Around 100,000 stems of the roses will be produced this year, twice as many as in 2007.

Gregory's Bloomworks stores offer a basic dozen roses for $55 and a special rose bouquet for $75.

But Gregory said the growers raise the prices of roses so much before Valentine's Day that the shops have no choice but to sell bouquets at a premium. Customers seem to understand the market, according to Gregory.

"I never have a gentleman or anyone saying, 'Oh, that's too much,'" Gregory said. "People know what to expect. We've done $75 (bouquets) for years."

Yanchunis said the demand for flowers before Valentine's Day has remained consistent over the years. That hasn't stopped him from fretting.

We have so much money invested in this one day, what if no one shows up?" Yanchunis said. "I always pace and worry about it. But (the demand) is almost always exactly the same."

Contact John Dugan via e-mail at jdugan@marinij.com



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