With love comes stress.
In the back of Rodeo Plaza Flowers & Gifts, florists zigzagged in and out of a refrigerator Thursday to retrieve red roses and other blooms. They bumped elbows as they trimmed stems and cracked jokes about their caffeine dependency while the phone rang off the hook.
“Valentine’s is crazy,” said longtime floral designer Lorena Arana, cutting thorns from a dozen rose stems at an impressive pace.
During the week of Valentine’s Day — easily the busiest time of year for most florists nationwide — Santa Fe outlets frantically labored to fulfill a surge of orders, all coming with high expectations on a tight deadline.
With all the chaos involved — from ordering thousands of flowers weeks in advance to hiring temporary employees and strategizing efficient delivery routes — many florists agree Feb. 14 is not all about love.
“Last year, we worked till 2 in the morning, 3 in the morning,” Arana said of the day-before-Valentine’s-Day rush, noting it’s a week that typically requires 60 hours of work, with at least one or two 18-hour shifts.
“That’s why I say, ‘I don’t like Valentine’s Day,’ ” Arana said with a laugh.
An upbeat attitude, she said, is mandatory this time of year.
“Working this much, you have to laugh all the time,” agreed Libby Hamilton of Las Cruces, who has worked at Rodeo Plaza Flowers during Valentine’s week for the past five years. After the shop closes at 5:30 p.m., Hamilton said, employees crank up the radio, dance around the petal-covered floors and eat some sort of takeout food while prepping final orders for the big day.
Nora Ramsey, the shop’s owner for more than 30 years, said she had more than 50 deliveries scheduled for Thursday, with another 160 on Friday and an additional 30 that needed to be ready for pickup.
“And that’s not counting the rush that comes in of procrastinators,” she said with a chuckle.
Compared to a typical week, when Rodeo Plaza Flowers sells about 300 roses, this week could top out at 4,000, Ramsey said.
The florists were reluctant to pinpoint the exact percentage Valentine’s Day plays in a year’s sales. Ramsey said that “the revenue on Valentine’s Day is very high,” though she added operation costs also are higher than usual. In addition to pricier orders — wholesalers know they can mark up the prices — she always has to hire five extra flower designers and a handful of contracted delivery people.
To make sure the arrangements are fresh, everything has to be completed no more than one day before the orders are due.
“It’s a really time-sensitive business,” said Pacific Floral Design owner Devan Barron. “That’s the curse.”
While Barron and his staff were “a step ahead” Thursday, he acknowledged it would be difficult to keep up on Friday, a day with more than 50 deliveries, not counting last-minute requests, for his small staff to complete. He said he planned to shut off his phone Friday and only accept online orders at that point.
“People just don’t realize how much work goes into it,” said Amanda Schutz, owner of the one-woman-production All The Pretty Flowers.
Like other florists, Schutz said she preordered flowers at least one month before the holiday — an already tricky endeavor because the exact order count is never certain. Once flowers arrive, florists must store them at the proper temperature — typically between 33 and 38 degrees — and schedule deliveries according to requested drop-off times and locations.
Arranging the flowers is the more creative part of the Valentine’s rush, yet it still requires precision. Prepping roses involves stripping thorns, removing ugly leaves, plucking petals that guard the flower, dipping the stem in a preservative and arranging the flowers in a neat and creative way, said Arana, who can churn out an arrangement of a dozen roses in under five minutes.
For most small operations, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are vitally important to having a good year. But Feb. 14 is the rush that seems to create most of the stress.
Ramsey noted there aren’t quite as many recipients on Mother’s Day, whereas Valentine’s Day creates the need to “send to their mother, grandmother, their kids, their wife, the other woman they go out with,” she said with a laugh.
Additionally, Mother’s Day deliveries are spread out across a week, allowing more flexibility.
Despite the bustle of the week, the florists are still partial to Valentine’s Day — if only because there’s a devotion to creating something beautiful at a time when it matters most.
“You know you’re making something special for someone,” Hamilton said. “I like to imagine who it’s going to. Knowing it’s going to make somebody happy — I like that.”