McALLEN — Despite a global pandemic, an economic crisis and a world that seems to be very much turned upside down, it looks like flowers on Mother’s Day are still a necessity.
That was certainly the case at Southern Roots Flower Market in McAllen on Friday, where owners Mariana Linaldi and Rodrigo R. Rodriguez waded among piles of peonies, roses and maraca flowers in the shop. Florists in facemasks snipped and arranged flowers bound for mothers and grandmothers, while other employees met customers at the door with bouquets and baskets.
After a month of smelling nothing but hand sanitizer and facemasks, the boutique flower shop smells refreshingly, almost shockingly, normal.
Rodriguez and Linaldi say that feeling is part of the reason this year’s Mother’s Day has been busier than most, regardless of the pandemic.
“I think people are just wanting to get out and spend. They’re craving that normalcy,” Rodriguez said.
Unlike some florists, Southern Roots did not fully close during the height of the pandemic. Selling soaps and edible items classified them as an essential business, but they did see a reduction in business of about 60% and were forced to lay off staff because of social distancing requirements.
“We were very worried for the first two weeks,” Linaldi said. “It was just us and then two other employees that had to do all the work. For the first two weeks it was pretty slow, really slow, because I think people were trying to save money and didn’t know what was happening, but we definitely amped up our advertising and our social media presence and we stayed pretty busy.”
Production and distribution problems were a concern too. Southern Roots’ flowers are flown in from Ecuador, and Linaldi found herself practically battling growers for flowers. She and Rodriguez worried constantly about being shut down.
Gradually, those kinks were worked out and the concerns subsided to a degree. Mother’s Day is a business boon and competition has gone down.
“It has helped us that H-E-B is not really doing floral right now,” Linaldi said. “They’re concentrating on other things, they’re concentrating on eggs and cleaning products because of the coronavirus, which has definitely left the door open to us being super busy.”
That doesn’t mean the trouble is over for the floral industry, and its financial future is still ambiguous.
“I guess we’re wondering, where do we go from here? Right now this is a great time for us, and we’re definitely taking advantage because it’s Mother’s Day. But what happens in June? In July and August? We don’t know,” Linaldi said.
One of the chief concerns for Rodriguez and Linaldi is weddings, which make up about half of Southern Roots’ business. The only problem is that the wedding business has all but grounded to a halt.
“It’s very important. We’ve been in this location for about a year and a half, but before that, we did weddings for 10 years, nothing else,” Linaldi said. “COVID hit and all that social distancing hit and not being able to do groups; had we been doing just weddings, we’d be done. … Everyone in the wedding industry is suffering. Cake people are moving to doing more birthdays. Photographers are hurting.”
It’s unclear when that industry will bounce back. Earlier this week Gov. Greg Abbott announced weddings would be allowed to resume, although indoor weddings would be limited to 25% of occupancy.
Linaldi said it’s unclear what that means for the short-term future of wedding business. It’s ambiguous whether couples will decide to have a wedding without a large reception, or if venues will decide the time is right to open up. As a business owner, she said, she’s excited to see weddings back on the horizon; as a woman who has asthma, she’s nervous about it and how it might spread COVID-19.
“I hope they don’t bring them back,” she said. “They’re just big gatherings of 200, 300, 400 people, who are coming and dancing and drinking, and would spread this so fast.”
Rodriguez has faith the wedding industry Southern Roots relies on will come back, in some capacity at least.
“Brides are a different breed,” he laughed.
And those brides, he says, will need flowers.