At least one flower stand will be open early St. Valentine’s Day: The Flower Lady on Isabella and Orange in downtown Coronado. Shanel Albert and her partner and husband, Steve, will be up and making bouquets of roses as lines of panicking males grow.
“On the day, it starts getting busy from 7 am and goes straight through to 7 pm,” Shanel says. “It takes weeks of planning. I order all my flowers in the first two weeks of January. Like, 40 bunches of these roses, ten bunches of this, twenty bunches of that. It’s like thousands.”
Is red the only color? She nods. “All people want is red roses.”
For the occasion, they rent out the lecture hall at the historical society across Isabella. “We do all the processing of the flowers there. And all of our design work, and all of our pre-mades. So we usually do like 100 wrapped pre-made bouquets, because the day of, there are usually two lines, all day. Last year was bad because it was pouring rain. But that’s when Philip Rivers came. He bought $50 worth of pink hydrangeas for his wife. He said those were her favorites. So I do have some stuff that’s not red roses.”
“Is it all guilty males?” I ask.
“It is,” she says. “In their twenties through seventies, and they always say ‘Is it too late to buy roses?’ I want to say, ‘This is what we’re set up for! For you guys who are late, and feel like you’re shit out of luck. You’re the reason we’re so busy on Valentine’s Day.’ So we like that they’re last-minute, because that’s what our bread and butter is.”
Do these last-minute Lotharios have to pay more? “A little. For a dozen roses, you’ll pay between $85 and $100. I’ve looked around, and at other shops it’s more than that.”
Her customers know what they want. “Most want the pre-mades. Red roses, wrapped, or in a vase. But some can’t decide. They just say ‘Make something pretty.’ Others fall on my shoulder and go ‘Help!’ It’s easy. I just say ‘Give me your budget,’ and we’ll stick to that and we’ll create something nice.”
The most expensive bouquet she’s ever made up?
“Probably the $700 one. It was a ton of roses. Several times people have asked for ‘100 roses,’ and they want them nicely arranged. For me, that would probably take like a half-hour.”
Of course, a lot of emotions are tied up in these roses. “We’ve had someone ask if they could return their flowers because they didn’t like the person who gave them,” says Shanel. “We said, ‘No, sorry, we can’t do that. You didn’t even pay for them.’
“We had one lady who thought her husband was cheating on her,” says Steve. “So she sent him flowers anonymously to see if he would tell her about them or not. She kept coming and circling, like ‘Did you hear from him?’
The husband finally did tell her that he’d received the mystery flowers. “The right decision there. Lucky Valentine!”
I have to ask Steve one more thing: “Do you buy flowers for your wife on Valentine’s Day?”
He looks at me like “Are you kidding?”