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A Florist’s Gamble: Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2011

by Kayla Germain

Most people don’t think about Valentine’s Day as a gamble. Thanks to the 2011 calendar, this Monday’s Saint Valentine holiday could be big, or a bust, for local florists.

“The single most factor that will affect our business for Valentine’s Day, is the day of the week,” said Diane “Susie” Nagengast . Nagengast is the current owner at the Emil J. Nagengast Florist, located at 169 Ontario St. in Albany. “If Valentine’s Day is on Saturday or Sunday you might as well not even bother. Honest to God, it will be like August 14th here, just doesn’t happen,” said Nagengast. She explained that many orders for flowers are for women who are at work, if it’s not a regular business day then flower sales tend to drop. “We’re afraid, ‘cause it hasn’t happened since 2005. So we are totally ready,” Nagengast said.

Since Monday starts off the work week, florists are unsure of where sales will fall this year. Many might celebrate Valentine’s Day at home over the weekend and skip the actual February 14 date. Or, people will pick up flowers in the shop themselves and save on delivery fees. “This year it falls on a Monday, which makes things a little bit different,” said Marybeth “Bones” Hannan, who helps at Nagengast Florist part time and is a full-time taxidermist. “The man wants to deliver flowers to the woman,” Hannan said, “They get brownie points for that, this is the holiday they get to shine on- or not!”

Margie Amodeo, web coordinator for Nagengast Florist, commented on the difference between Valentine’s Day and other holidays.“Everybody wants it delivered on Valentine’s Day, which makes it a true emergency,” said Amodeo, “as opposed to Christmas, you get a whole month. Mother’s Day people are okay with the week.”

Despite the gamble on whether or not this Monday will be a big flower day, Nagengast Florist has been working hard to prepare. Normally, the business has a fleet of four regular vans and two family vehicles that are used. During Valentine’s Day they hire people to work as subcontractors. “Friends, boyfriends, anybody that will take the day off and do it for us pretty much,” said Nagengast.

Frank Chromik, a full-time delivery driver who has been with the company for 24 years, was ready for a busy weekend. “I don’t ever usually work on Sunday, but I have to work this Sunday,” said Chromik, “It’s a one-day thing, some people get them early, but it’s mostly a one-day thing.”

A variety of roses are shipped in from around the world for Valentine’s Day (Kayla Germain)

The urgency for a single day holiday is what drives flower prices up. “They actually have to be trimmed back, they sacrifice several weeks before Valentine’s Day, of limited production. Their price starts to go up and all of a sudden we need them all at one time,” Nagengast said.  “It’s at a sacrifice that all the flowers can just appear magically on Valentine’s Day…one of the coldest days of the year, and one of the shortest days of the year,” said Nagengast. The National Weather Service forecasts Monday’s temperature to be at a high of 41°F, which is an ideal temperature for flowers, but there is also a 40 percent chance of rain or snow, which means delivery drivers could face some challenges.

Despite high prices, the phone was ringing and the shop bustling on Friday, just three days before the holiday. Nagengast and Amodeo noted that advanced orders and web sales so far were on par with expectations. The most popular item so far, according to Nagengast, is the classic one-dozen red roses. The average dozen runs at $75 a dozen, arranged in a vase. Albany delivery is $7, with locations immediately outside the Albany area increasing from there.

If customers stray from the traditional dozen roses they can find arrangements in a wide price of ranges, although not nearly as inexpensive as they once were. A 1982 edition of The College of Saint Rose “Inscape” newspaper advertised Valentine arrangements from Danker Florist, at 658 Central Ave., for “cash & carry” at $7.95. According to their Web site for the 2011 Valentine’s holiday, Danker Florist’s lowest arrangement was $39.95, plus delivery.

Some customers this year are being economical and placing orders for just a few flowers. Queniah Maye, 19,  was at the Nagengast Florist placing her order for one rose and two carnations, for her mother and grandmother this Valentine’s Day. Maye has tried other shops but keeps coming back to Nagengast Florist. “The flowers last way longer. I like the way they come, they add all the small things that go with it,” said Maye. The “small things” are the extras like baby’s breath, wax flower, a vase, ribbon, and packaging.

This kind of loyal customer base is what has kept the Nagengast Florist open for 100 years. Founded in 1910 by Emil J. Nagengast, the

shop remains at its original location on Ontario Street. In 1996 a second location was opened in Stuyvesant Plaza to increase visibility, since the Ontario Street shop is located on the corner of two, one-way streets in what has become a primarily residential area. However, the original location continues to be the “work horse,” according to Nagengast.

The Nagengast Florist is still a family business and currently has four cousins and a niece as principle staff. Many non-family employees have been with the business for decades. Lucy Kopecki, a part time florist, has worked with the Nagengast family for almost 35 years. She started work at the shop when Emil J. Nagengast’s son, Bernie, heard that she would be attending SUNY Cobleskill for floriculture and invited her to come into the shop. “Really, the most I learned about design was from working here,” said Kopecki.

Pride in the Nagengast name is taken very seriously at the shop by all employees. “Their name is on every box that goes out of here. They make sure that they’re proud of every arrangement and the quality is the best possible quality that they can buy,” said Amodeo. “Because they’ve been around since 1910 it’s really important for them to keep the name and quality of every single item, every single day, even on a holiday when it’s most difficult.”

This particular holiday is difficult, in both preparations and predictions thanks to the day of the week. Monday is not typically a day people look forward to, but perhaps this Monday will be a little better for some. At least, the employees at Nagengast Florist hope so. -30-


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