Businesses prepare for a different Mother’s Day

Jennifer Wilson and her sister Brooke Newman work on flower arrangements. Wilson owns Wild August Nursery and Flower Farm and said Mother's Day sales were at its best this year. Courtesy Photo

HARLINGEN —Mother’s Day is known for being a day to take mothers out for dinner, send them flowers while they are working or spending time together as families. This year it might be slightly different.

Harlingen business owners who usually devote the special day to a great number of customers have had to accommodate to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

However, most of them appear to be handling the situation smoothly and are hoping for a great turnout.

Jo Rae Wagner, owner of Colletti’s at downtown Harlingen, decided to open her business for dine-in service again. Usually, Colletti’s does not open on Sundays regularly, but Wagner said for the almost nine years the business has been running, it never misses a Mother’s Day.

The restaurant started to take reservations for Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Though Wagner is hopeful, she said business has not been at its greatest since COVID-19.

“ It has been terrible. I take it I opened and people were still not ready to go out. We are truly doing everything to make them feel safe,” she said.

Wagner mentioned tables are set where people are 10 feet apart and all servers are wearing masks as they work.

“ Every time someone gets up and leaves we sterilize everything. We don’t want anyone to get sick here but truthfully I think they are safer here than they are in the supermarket,” Wagner said.

This year, the restaurant offered a limited menu but Wagner said the favorites were included, all the pastas, pizzas and salmon and chicken piccatas options.

“ It could be a total disaster if no one shows up but I’ve got a few reservations and I’m hoping to get more,” she said.

On Friday, when Wagner was interviewed, she had only five reservations with 22 people included. She said if it stayed that way it would not cover payroll.

“ Truth is we have a capacity of 300. To do 25 percent puts us at a disadvantage, which is why so many chains are not opening. They can’t afford that either,” she said.

“ If an honest 25 percent comes then it would be a good day for us, it would pay the bills,” Wagner said.

A minimum of 100 people attending would be the starting point for Wagner to consider it a successful day.

But regardless of the concerns, Wagner said she loves Mother’s Day and wants to continue offering the option to her clients.

“ Opening on a Sunday is expensive anyways but I’ve always loved the fact people come out and have such a good time. They have a good meal and relax, we are considered a high end restaurant and I love treating people special, I really do,” she said.

“ I love seeing the mothers come in and for some of them it might be the last Mother’s Day they ever have and they choose to come here and to me that really says something. It makes me glad I’m here,” Wagner said.

While Wagner continues to offer dine in, other restaurants that usually open up on this day opted for a COVID-19 custom option.

Laurel Park Bistro offered a special brunch to go menu to be picked up on Mother’s Day. It featured French toast, pork belly hash or a Mediterranean frittata as options.

Flowers for Mom

When it comes to the flower business word is sales were booming.

Jennifer Wilson, owner at Wild August Nursery & Flower Farm, said orders for Mother’s Day kept coming in as the day approached.

The flower farm does not open on Sundays but Wilson said their farmer’s market was reopening on Saturday to allow customers to pick up Mother’s Day orders.

Wilson said it has not been easy as a business to keep the same work flow as before but it has been surprisingly stable.

“ I was concerned because we serve several restaurants in Harlingen and provide them with table flowers and once they close they don’t need flowers. Those are kind of our baseline, something we can be sure of every season. Then weddings and funerals were cancelled,” she said.

“ We do prom corsages and all of a sudden all of that was gone and I was really worried at first, just how it was going to play out for our business. But, the community response to our flowers has been great,” Wilson said.

The flower farm has been in business for five years but Wilson said new customers continue to spring up every once in a while and have allowed the business to stay strong amidst cancellations.

“ We lost those events but we picked up so many customers, community people wanting to buy our $15 market bunches we usually sell on weekends, but we had such a high demand we started offering them during the week,” she said.

For Wilson, seeing the response from the community was encouraging to keep going.

“ People were saying we are home and we really want flowers and want our homes to feel pretty, so many of them stopped by to pick up bouquets,” she said.

“ It felt like the community loving us back, it was encouraging in a way that just exceeds finances,” Wilson said.

Surprisingly Wilson said this Mother’s Day has been her most successful one ever.

“ Our business has grown steadily every year. This past April our sales were down because of the lost events but I wouldn’t trade it for the new people we’ve met,” she said.

“ Our Mother’s Day sales are up and I don’t remember saying we sold out last year. This morning I woke up with more orders online and thought, shoot, I don’t want to disappoint,” Wilson said the Friday before Mother’s Day.