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February 13, 2017

Sweethearts swamp florist with Valentine’s Day orders

Photos/Don Del Rosso
Tina Culver and Teresa Bowles handle the Valentine’s rush at their shop in Old Town Warrenton, Designs By Teresa.
“Women like to be surprised in front of their friends,” Marshall resident Jimmy Jackson says as he stops by Friday to place his Valentine’s Day order.
That’s the one day of the year, if they’re ever going to make things good, they better get it right that day.
— Warrenton florist Teresa Bowles
Designs by Teresa
• What: Florist and gift shop

• Where: 7 Main St., Warrenton

• Owner: Teresa Bowles

• Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

• Phone: 540-347-4762

• Website:

• Facebook: Click here
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Some men hope Valentine’s Day flowers will help repair rocky relationships.

“That’s the one day of the year, if they’re ever going to make things good, they better get it right that day,” says Teresa Bowles, owner of Designs by Teresa, a florist and gift shop in Old Town Warrenton.

Besides lots of business, Valentine’s Day has generated some memorable stories, says Ms. Bowles, rolling her eyes.

Valentine’s Day customers rarely cross the line of good taste, but she remembers a note from last year that proved too “racy” to repeat.

“Things I won’t even say.”

Men “don’t get raunchy,” Ms. Bowles says about notes they write. “They’re trying to impress their girlfriends. And, if it’s going to the workplace, you don’t know who’s going to read it.”

One forgetful customer asked the shop to deliver flowers to his beloved after Valentine’s Day, suggesting her staff had forgotten to deliver them on time, Ms. Bowles says.

“We don’t do that,” she says, laughing. “That’s his problem.”

Fast and furiously, flower orders flood the shop about two weeks before Valentine’s Day.

Like no other special occasion, Feb. 14 dominates their professional lives, say Ms. Bowles and her daughter, Tina Culver.

The 7 Main St. shop will have taken and delivered about 225 Valentine’s Day arrangements by Tuesday, says Ms. Bowles, who started the business 31 years ago.

Another 50 or so customers will pick up arrangements at the store.

“Tina can crank them out like a machine,” Ms. Bowles says of her daughter, who creates about 90 percent of the shop’s arrangements.

Ms. Bowles takes most customer requests and does all of the business paperwork, including all hand-written notes that accompany orders.

Ms. Bowles has tried to give some card-writing duties to young hires.

But, “the problem is kids can’t write anymore,” she says. “You can’t read it. I don’t let anyone write cards, unless they have nice handwriting. If you’re paying $75, $85 for flowers, you think I’m going to give you a card that looks like it has chicken scratch on it? No!”

For Valentine’s Day orders alone, the shop will sell at least 1,000 roses, Ms. Bowles says. Red remains the color of choice, with pink and lavender becoming increasingly popular.

Leading up to the big day, she routinely works 12- to 14-hour days.

“I’m up a 5:30 in the morning, letting in the guys” who deliver flowers for wholesalers. “And, sometimes I’m still working until 5:30 at night, or later.

“We try to do as much as we possibly can ahead of time — prepping, getting all the vases in, making sure all the cards are here, making sure we get delivery people lined up.”

Valentine’s Day pieces typically range from $50 to $100 each, with high-end orders sometimes reaching $250 apiece.

“The more unusual the flowers, the more expensive they are,” Ms. Culver says.

A dozen roses ordinarily costs $75, Ms. Bowles says.

That price jumps to $85 per dozen for Valentine’s Day, because wholesalers charge more based on “supply and demand, like everything else,” she explains. “Everything becomes more expensive.”

But, that $10 increase doesn’t cover her costs, Ms. Bowles says.

“I feel if they’re my customers all year long and they buy a dozen roses at $75, I don’t want to raise them more than $10 on Valentine’s Day.”

More than anything, the prospect of harsh winter weather poses the biggest threat to Valentine’s Day business, Ms. Bowles says.

The night before Valentine’s Day 2014, a heavy snowstorm swept through the region, Ms. Bowles remembers.

“Main Street was closed,” she says. “I started calling all these guys who had ordered flowers, and they were coming in four-wheel-drive pickup trucks. I was just walking all of these roses to the middle of the street. There wasn’t any traffic.”

Jimmy Jackson of Marshall on Friday stopped by the shop to order an arrangement for his girlfriend, Candice Grigsby, who works at P.B. Smith Elementary School near Warrenton.

“I did it once before and her colleagues made a big deal over it,” said Mr. Jackson, who works for the Prince William County school system. “So I’m doing it again. Women like to be surprised in front of their friends.”
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