Image: Phil Caruso of Caruso Florist, puts flowers in the snow outside the shop in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin  /  AP
Phil Caruso of Caruso Florist, puts flowers in the snow outside the shop in Washington on Thursday. The shop rented four-wheel-drive vehicles to pick up employees and make deliveries in the wake of back-to-back snowstorms.
updated 2/11/2010 7:15:04 PM ET 2010-02-12T00:15:04

Snow-clogged streets and closed office buildings are posing twin logistical challenges for mid-Atlantic florists as Valentine's Day approaches, and some worry it won't be a rosy holiday unless sales bloom when the shoveling ends.

Shops are marshaling SUVs and four-wheel-drive vehicles to make deliveries in storm-battered cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, which virtually shut down when a pair of blizzards dumped record-breaking snow.

Though Valentine's Day always comes in wintry February, the combination of it falling on a long weekend, plus massive office closings, unplowed streets and weather-delayed floral shipments has put some florists on edge.

"This is probably the worst, there's no question about it," said David Hope, owner of Flower Gallery Inc. in Washington. "We're jokingly saying we want to suggest they pass a law to change Valentine's Day to August."

Blooming business
When Feb. 14 falls on a weekend, florists say, many bouquet senders want the flowers delivered a day or two earlier so the recipient gets them at work in front of envious colleagues.

But most businesses have been closed because of the snow, which means a lot of rerouting to homes in suburbs that may not be well-plowed. And Monday is a federal holiday — Presidents Day — when government offices will again be shuttered.

"I wish somebody would say, 'All of next week is officially Valentine's Week,'" Hope said. "Every florist has hundreds of roses, and whether they're all going to sell or not is the big question."

Cris Wilkins, owner of Flowers By Michael in Baltimore, said he received a shipment of flowers on Thursday from Colombia that was delayed a day because of the storm. But even though he has the necessary supplies, attracting customers and making deliveries are still challenges. He worries he could lose half his business for the holiday.

"All I need are customers," he said. "They've got more pressing issues right now like digging out and getting to work."

Image: Jim Caruso takes a Valentine's Day bouquet to be chilled at Caruso Florist.
Jacquelyn Martin  /  AP
Jim Caruso takes a completed Valentine's Day bouquet to be chilled at Caruso Florist in Washington.

Karen Fountain, president of Flowers 'N' Ferns in Burke, Va., didn't think motorists would be able to see her store amid the mountains of plowed snow in the shopping plaza's parking lot. So she made a sign — "Snow Can't Stop Cupid" — and stuck it in one of the snow drifts, anchored by a bucket of silk flowers and balloons.

"Anybody driving by can't see anything," Fountain said. "I'm just trying to stay as optimistic as I can."

At Haddonfield Floral Company in the Philadelphia suburb of Haddonfield, N.J., owner D.W. Janszky said he's been able to get deliveries and that online and phone orders have been strong — especially on Wednesday when so many people were snowed in.

Michael Caruso, vice president of Caruso Florist in Washington, said he rented four-wheel-drive vehicles to pick up employees and make deliveries.

"We've been in business since 1903; this isn't the first storm we've weathered," Caruso said. He noted the motto of his 79-year-old father, Phil: "Rain or snow or 6 below, we go."

Last-minute holiday
Jennifer Sparks, vice president of marketing for the Society of American Florists, said many shop owners she has talked with planned to be fully stocked and open on Sunday, which could offset some business lost to the storm.

"For the majority of people, it does tend to be a last-minute holiday," Sparks said.

In Philadelphia, things have been hectic for Robertson's Flowers but "the snow is not slowing us down," said Lisa Roth, chief operating officer.

The business, which has three locations, took orders for half a day Wednesday before the worst of the blizzard and sent out a mass e-mail to let customers know it would be open and delivering on Thursday.

Tulips are a great reminder that spring is coming, Roth noted, even if you can't see the ground beneath the waist-high snow drifts.

"Just because it's snowing doesn't mean you need to forget your Valentine," Roth said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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