Where have all the flowers gone?
“The chains and Internet took them, every one” could be the lament of Falls Church Florist owners Mike and Diane Flood who are closing the family-owned business they opened 66 years ago on Thursday, June 30.
“The floral business over 35 years has changed 180 degrees,” Mike Flood said in an interview with the News-Press at the shop last weekend. “If you don’t adapt and are not a social media marketer, you can’t remain a flower shop the way you did 40 years ago.”
Flood said he lacked the social media skills necessary to survive in today’s flower world.
On a tour of the shop where small colorful bouquets sat on tables ready for delivery and empty shelves showed signs of depleted inventory, Flood gave a brief history of the shop started by his aunt and uncle, Mary and John Copland, in 1949.
Flood began helping them when he was eight years old, cleaning up and doing odd jobs, and at age 10, he went to live with them and grew up in flowers.
“It’s not profitable anymore,” he said, and “the bottom line is there are no ethics any more in the floral industry. It’s pretty much a cutthroat business.”
Cemeteries and funeral homes are mostly owned by chains now, Flood said, and they offer discounted flower packages, and bypass local florists.
Because of time, labor, and costs of goods, a wedding contract can be counterproductive, and the prom business is not what is used to be.
“Kids are not into it as much,” an opinion shared by one of Flood’s customers, Gary Sierck of Arlington.
“I like personal service,” Sierck, who has been buying Flood’s flowers for more than 30 years, said in a telephone interview.
“Young people really don’t care about personal service” nor do they “cater to small business. Everybody’s in too big of a hurry.”
Sierk, a longtime Falls Church businessman, said “small businesses are going extinct,” and he blames “government policies.”
Instead of taking care of business and improving customer service, small business owners have to spend time fulfilling government requirements or hiring the work out, all factors which negatively affects an owner’s bottom line.
“It’s sad it’s closing,” he said. They “have a nice delivery service, are friendly and helpful, and do the things that no longer get done. I’ll miss them. I am friends with them.
“You find somebody who treats you nice and you want to return. I hate to see them go. I don’t blame them. They are good, honest people. You like somebody, you go back.”
Carol Mack has lived in Falls Church for 50 years and has been a Falls Church Florist customer “probably” for that long.
“They have the freshest flowers,” she said in a phone interview. Never have I been disappointed,” and she repeated “never.”
“I have no clue where I’m going to buy flowers. They’ve always been there for us. Their bouquets last a week, at least. Everything has to be up to their standards,” and she has worked for two different churches over the years which bought flowers at the Flood’s. “I am sorry to see them go.”
Her son in Florida has a standing order with the shop to send his mom flowers for all the major holidays. “I don’t know what he’ll do,” Mack said.
She compares the store’s closure to the changes underway in Falls Church.
“It used to be a small, historical town. Now it wants to become a bustling city for the young people. They’re driving out a lot of these smaller businesses,” Mack said. “I guess they feel it’s progress. It’s a loss to the community.”
There are days when the Floods are burned out. According to the Floods, neither of their two daughters, Erin and Marca, is interested in carrying on the business.
Mom and Dad have sold their Falls Church building to a local developer, and they are moving to Fredericksburg where they have bought a home.
But first they are having two big parking lot sales at the shop at 419 West Broad on two Sundays, May 22 and June 12 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The last day “the oldest family owned florist in Northern Virginia” will be open for business is June 30.
Designer Katherine Gamble who was busy cutting greenery and orange carnations and quickly placing them in a vase, is moving, also, to West Virginia to live with her son and find, she hopes, a florist with a “now hiring” sign hanging in a window.