‘We’ve lost the busiest day of the year’: Richmond flower market closes before Valentine’s Day due to wintry weather

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The worst ice storm the greater Richmond area has seen in about two decades not only knocked out power for thousands of residents, but also wiped out businesses over one of the weekends the busiest of the year.

Steve Papoulakos was the owner of Trendy flowers for 36 years. He says nothing during this tenure could have prepared him for such a difficult business year.

“Last year and of course this year it was very difficult, COVID-19 and business,” Papoulakos said. “Passage traffic has gone down. In terms of delivery, we are doing well.

But even deliveries suffered because of the ice storm, cutting Vogue Flowers’ profits by more than half.

“Due to the ice storm, we had to close the day before Valentine’s Day [Day]said Papoulakos. “We lost the busiest day of the year.”

Papoulakos tells 8News that for Vogue Flowers, Valentine’s Day tends to be even busier than Mother’s Day. In one day, the market can make up to 1,500 deliveries. But because of the Saturday closure, the business stopped accepting orders and all orders already placed were pushed back to Sunday for delivery.

“Normally we make most deliveries the day before, and whatever else we just have the flexibility to complete everything in a timely manner,” Papoulakos said. “Because of the weather, we played it safe. All the drivers came home early. We didn’t want to jeopardize someone coming out late.

Every Valentine’s Day, Vogue Flowers hires approximately 40 additional delivery drivers to meet growing demand. With the extra staff already in place, the drivers were only dispatched on Sunday.

Vogue Flowers owner Steve Papoulakos says Valentine’s Day is the busiest floral holiday of the year. (Photo: Olivia Jaquith)

But even when the ice melted, the challenges persisted.

“We had a lot of problems with the roads being a bit slippery,” said Papoulakos. “Many places we were delivering to had lost power. People weren’t at home. Trying to pinpoint where people were on several occasions became difficult, so we tried to call shippers to see if we could leave the flowers with someone.

With power lines down, Vogue Flowers staff struggled to reach customers to complete their deliveries. In some cases, Papoulakos says, flowers could be left outside, if the delivery driver was able to confirm that someone would be home soon.

“We couldn’t leave tropical plants outside, but we could leave flowers,” he said. “As long as the temperature didn’t drop below 32 degrees, it was safe.”

While Papoulakos says Vogue Flowers has encountered more problems than normal, For the love of chocolate actually extended its opening hours to meet demand before Valentine’s Day.

Owner Elizabeth Vranas told 8News there was no slowdown in foot traffic on Saturday or Sunday, despite the ice storm outside. The Carytown candy store remained open until 7 p.m. Sunday to ensure drivers and pedestrians willing to brave the weather could grab their last-minute Valentine’s Day treats.

Terisa K. Carn