The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Business Blooms For Mother's Day in Flower District

By DNAinfo Staff on May 12, 2012 12:01pm

Red tulips piled up for shipment at Associated Cut Flower Co.
Red tulips piled up for shipment at Associated Cut Flower Co.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Paul DeBenedetto

By Paul DeBenedetto

DNAinfo.com New York Reporter

CHELSEA — Every year, right around Valentine’s Day and on through June, the flower business begins to pick up.

But even Valentine’s Day pales in comparison to the second Sunday in May.

“Not everyone has a boyfriend, girlfriend, lover,” said Nicholas Cassandra, a salesman at Associated Cut Flower Co. “But everyone’s got a mother.”

Every year around this time, flower wholesalers in Chelsea’s flower district prepare for their busiest holiday of the year. And as Mother’s Day approaches, business is bloomin’.

At one time, there were as many as 52 wholesalers in Chelsea’s Flower District. That number has dwindled through the years, Cassandra says, to around 12.

But viewing these stores during holiday hours, you don’t get the feeling that the district is shrinking. Shelves, filled with flowers when the day begins, sit empty in the afternoon.

Leaves and petals are strewn about the floor as employees clean, cut and wrap flower orders to be shipped off.

“We were hit hard,” said Josh Abrahim, the 22-year-old salesman at United Wholesale Florists.

United is decidedly smaller than Associated. Abrahim’s uncle owns the shop, and the young man says he does “a little of everything.”

On Friday, he looks like he did a lot of everything.

“It’s Mother’s Day,” he says with a sigh. “And not only that, springtime brings the best flowers.”

In that way, Mother’s Day, while the flower business’ busiest holiday, can also be the easiest to prepare for due to the change in season.

The blooming flowers lead to an increase in supply to the growing demand, some vendors say.

Mack Ernie, a manager at 28th Street Wholesale Flowers, stocks his shop to the brim with roses, peonies and flowering branches as the holiday approaches.

“Like any business, you gotta figure out what’s going to sell that week,” said Ernie. “Around Mother’s Day, there’s a broader selection, so you keep more things available.”

The wholesalers on this block, 28th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, don’t make the bulk of their business from street sales. They sell to florists, designers and arrangers.

One of the only retailers on the block, Starbright Floral Design, is an online retailer, and they work with wholesalers like those on 28th Street to fill smaller customer orders.

As Mother’s Day approaches, the added staff, additional trucks and extra flower orders that Starbright requires make running a business pricey.

But Stephen Faitos, vice president at Starbright, says that in the week leading up to Mother’s Day, they see their profits go up anywhere from thirty to forty percent.

“There is a spike in your expenses during the holiday,” said Faitos. “But let’s put it this way: Our revenue far outweighs the expenses.”

Around the block from the bustling flower district, on Sixth Avenue, is a florist called Superior Flowers. Shopping for Mother’s Day, Sonya Shillingford, 62, picks up a small purple flower and eyeballs it.

Contemplating the holiday — not as a salesman, but as a family member — she gives her
own explanation as to why flowers are so associated with mothers.

“Flowers are like happiness,” she said. “You get a warm feeling, soothing.”

“They’re beautiful.”

Sonya Shillingford, 62, a customer at Superior Florist in Chelsea.
Sonya Shillingford, 62, a customer at Superior Florist in Chelsea.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Paul DeBenedetto