by Doug McClure
HARDWICK – Valentine’s Day is normally one of the top sales days for Hardwick’s lone florist, the Flower Basket, located in the Daniels Building.
This year’s Valentine’s Day, however, the shop faced a triple whammy: COVID, the closure of the pedestrian bridge, and the fact that the holiday fell on a Sunday, proprietor Nora DeMuth said. Compared to last year, which was pre-COVID and fell on a Friday with the bridge open, sales were “about a fifth of our volume.”
DeMuth said that the shop received more pre-orders than last year, which streamlined the production process and allowed accommodation for custom flower selections. The business also just installed a new cooler which extends the period during which the product stays fresh.
DeMuth said beyond the pre-orders, more people picked up their orders “a few days in advance, which is a great option. We often hear from customers that our flower arrangements last much longer than they expected.”
This year, said DeMuth, “many of our regular customers chose to have their Valentine’s flowers in their homes for the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, so they are full and lovely on Valentine’s Day, and then last through the following week.”
DeMuth and shop employee Sally Anstey braved the cold and stood on Main Street to let passing motorists and pedestrians know the shop was open for the holiday. “[We] were out on Main Street yesterday waving giant noodle flowers, handing out samples of Lake Champlain Chocolates, and spreading Valentine’s cheer.” At the shop, the first order came in at 8 a.m. and the last at 6 p.m. “We had hot cider, donuts, and Lake Champlain Chocolates samples for folks to have in their cars while waiting for their order, and we decorated the snowbank facing Wolcott Street with a cheerful bouquet of giant noodle flowers.”
DeMuth said that the business is looking forward to two more large upcoming holidays, Easter and Mother’s Day. Despite the lower volume of sales this Valentine’s Day, DeMuth said “with a wider view of the holiday, this year compared to last, we’re doing okay!” and despite the “rough times, I’m thankful that it hasn’t been as hard on The Flower Basket as on other businesses.”
The pedestrian bridge’s closure last fall added insult to injury, DeMuth said, and had impacted every aspect of the business. “I have noticed a pronounced drop-off in in-store retail traffic, particularly on Saturdays, since the bridge closure. The closure also affects our ability to remain connected and deliver flowers to local businesses on Main Street.” DeMuth hoped for a new and improved replacement bridge “that will grace our community for the next one hundred years.”
DeMuth thanked the community for its support throughout these challenging months and for the sales on Valentine’s Day. “We’re all so very thankful for all the orders we received this year, and especially grateful for our customers who give gifts of flowers delivered to their loved ones every week, every other week, and every month. It’s really those every-day and recurring sales that keep us going, and we’re excited to be able to continue serving the greater Hardwick area with beautiful flowers.”