First day volunteering at a flower shop. Actually they call themselves florists so I think flower shop may be outdated. I spent a few hours at a local florist in the Silver Spring area, Creative Floral Designs on Tech Road near the DMV and Kuglers for those who know the area. A family owned place where the owners are surrounded by their children running the business operation and grandkids working in the main office and so many employees making beautiful arrangements and bouquets.
I entered through the shop portion of the store and after a few introductions, was escorted into the main workshop or "design studio" of the place. I would say there were ten to fifteen employees with their hands deep in vases, ribbon, and greens with fresh and silk flowers everywhere. There was a ribbon station. A wall of vases bigger than my Go Ape zip line and coolers of flowers surrounding me. As the orders came in, tags were assigned and distributed amongst the employees to begin fulfilling the orders. Most of the folks I spoke with had worked at this particular flower business ten to thirty years. They own a few places in the area but this is the main headquarters for the arrangement making. To say these folks had experience is an understatement.
There were books of arrangements and signs on the wall telling people how to assemble each order based on the cost of the vase, decorations and flowers. I could quickly see that this was not the type of place you just show up and work. Years of training is required to determine which vase goes with each order. How many flowers to use. Which fillers go with what arrangement. And for flowers... wow. There are colors and species that go together and those that do not. There are glitter sprays and glossy sprays to make leaves look greener or shiny. Greens that look like someone went into the Amazon rain forest to make a bouquet.
It was like a craft store for flower lovers. How anyone actually gets work done in here is beyond me. And this was one of their slow days. Everyone was standing up. Either by a table making arrangements, by the ordering station to process flower requests and tag them or by the balloon and decoration section. There are balloons, teddy bears, lotions, cards, ribbon, you name it.
I saw hardworking people go from one vase to the next. Carefully taping a grid inside each vase with which to fill flowers in all sorts of directions. Hot glue was used for special sponge-like filler used for dried silk arrangements. People were prepping vases and decor for the upcoming holiday season where they get so busy, they literally have no time to sweep the floor which gets piled high with flower scraps not making the cut.
There was a rose station where a woman was unwrapping roses fresh from Florida, analyzing them for color and shape. Trimming those worthy of use. Discarding anything with wilted leaves. Some are used for petals. Others probably made into mulch.
All I know was, I was in love. Now this place is not a small mom and pop operation. Yes, it is family owned and operated. But, they do use some of the major flower distributors online such as FTD to advertise and locate additional orders. Some orders from regular customers are standing orders that they fill on regular intervals. While others, like births, weddings or funerals, are customized and made to order. The smell of flowers was everywhere and I was walking around just watching the artists decorate. Most of the arrangements are standard themes. They require certain flowers, colors, designs. But others are make your own and buyers can walk in off the street to their shop and buy an arrangement out of the cooler.
Though I was not able to actually make any arrangements today, I did learn a lot about the flower business from talking with the locals and watching them in action. I do hope to go back the week before Thanksgiving to help out during their busy season. And perhaps plan another visit around the December holidays to get a true sense of floral chaos in action. I do have to say though that my dream of working in a flower shop was ever so much richer after my exposure today. Not just the environment but the camaraderie amongst the team of employees. People seemed genuinely happy to come to work and happy to be in a business that makes money by making people smile. I definitely plan to return and get my hands knee deep in the buds soon. This was an eye opening experience.