Shared from the 4/28/2021 Houston Community Newspapers eEdition

Floral shops struggle to recover as the pandemic loosens grip

Courtesy of Mary Morales

Master Designer Lana King prepares one of her custom arrangements for a client. King and her husband Samuel own Blooms From The Heart in Cypress and are survivors of the pandemic and freeze.

The most exciting thing Lana King does every morning these days is turn on the “We’re Open” sign at her business. After the craziest year in the floral industry that she and her husband Samuel have ever seen, it’s been a blessing to even still be in business.

“It’s out of our control. It’s in God’s hands,” she said. “That’s all we can do.” Following a 33-year career in the legal industry, King began working on her dream job in the floral business in 2007. She took the necessary classes to become one of the best and currently holds the designation as a Certified Texas Master Florist Advanced. They opened their business, Blooms From The Heart, so named by her husband, on Dec. 1, 2013. Life was good. The couple had built their business from nothing to one of the most respected floral businesses in Cypress until Mar. 17, 2020 when they had the carpet yanked out from underneath them.

It began with her husband, who had worked in the oil and gas industry for 40 years, getting laid off because of the pandemic.

The next blow came to the business. “That was a year to remember and we’re still struggling with it,” she said.

When the pandemic hit and forced closures to businesses across the area and state, it interrupted the normal flow of activities and King lost business on 13 events in one day. It was devastating and shocking.

She had scheduled weddings, bridal showers, a funeral memorial service, and several other events.

“It was about $15,000 and that wasn’t everything,” she said.

Like a domino effect, the cancellations began to roll in.

King, who has a lot of accounts with area schools, lost that business when they closed.

“There was no prom. No graduation. I have an account with Lone Star College. They had no graduation ceremonies, and no after-parties. All of them canceled and gone,” she said.

Some who had planned their weddings last year were able to reschedule to this year or 2022, but the large majority either canceled or decided on a justice of the peace wedding with scaled-down flowers.

King also had accounts with local churches who canceled flowers while they were closed—another hit to their pocketbook. Some, who lost their jobs, scaled way back on expenses for their weddings.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do,” she said. The final straw was not being able to deliver to hospitals because of the fear of coronavirus and hospitals being shut down to outsiders.

If that wasn’t enough, even if she could sell flowers, struggling wholesalers were also in a bind trying to furnish flowers to shops.

“We didn’t know what we could get from day to day because even the growers overseas were affected by the pandemic,” she said. The wholesalers purchase flowers from around the United States and the world. Everyone was affected.

“We’re still struggling. Everything’s not back to normal including weddings. I’ve had weddings that were booked at 18-20 tables that are now down to five or six,” she described it. “It’s still a loss.”

It was money they hoped would help them make a rebound.

By Mother’s Day in May, she was down to her husband and herself, a couple of drivers and a part-time florist to help.

“We did have a lot more orders for Mother’s Day because people couldn’t get out to go see their mother or loved ones and we had to limit everything to online,” she said. No in-person meetings were allowed.

She didn’t lose employees by laying them off, but several of them were fearful and didn’t want to come in to work until much later when they felt comfortable again.

“We were able to continue working because we fell under the agricultural umbrella, so we were able to continue with the exemption to do deliveries even though we had to close the storefront,” she said. People were very understanding, she said, with substitutions of flowers for those she couldn’t get and not knowing what they were sending.

“We still maintain contactless delivery,” she said. “I have to keep my drivers safe, and the rest of the staff,” she said. Her biggest challenge now is the shortage of flowers and the challenge of delivery, both their own to customers and delivery from the wholesalers.

“Our biggest issue for Mother’s Day is I don’t know what I’ll be getting even with pre-delivery,” she said.

The big freeze in February came just after the Valentine’s Day rush.

“We did lose power, but the cooler was fine and the store was cold enough we didn’t lose a lot of product,” she said. “It could have been much worse, like it was during Harvey. I lost a lot of product then.”

They went one day without power and a full week without deliveries.

“I was calling people all day to let them know what we were going through,” she said. A lot of them were out of state and had no idea Texas was going through such a trying time.

“They were understanding,” she said. The freeze hit about 6 p.m. on Valentine’s Day.

“I was able to get my drivers home in time,” she said, and she and her husband made it home okay. They managed a couple of times to safely navigate a drive to the store to check on the flowers and to make sure everything was okay. To support the King family and their business, visit their website or visit them at 9740 Barker Cypress Road, Suite 106 in Cypress. They can also be reached by phone at 281-861-4784.

Next week, how the industry is faring and why you can’t get some of the flowers or plants you might have wanted for that special

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