RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The worst ice storm the greater Richmond region has seen in roughly two decades not only wiped out power for thousands of residents, but also wiped out business during one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Steve Papoulakos has been the owner of Vogue Flowers for 36 years. He says nothing during that tenure could have prepared him for such a difficult year of business.
“Last year and, of course, this year, it’s been very difficult, COVID-19 and business,” Papoulakos said. “The walk-in traffic has diminished. Delivery-wise, we’re doing well.”
But even deliveries suffered because of the ice storm, cutting Vogue Flowers’ profit by more than half.
“Due to the ice storm, we had to close down the day before Valentine’s [Day],” Papoulakos said. “We lost the busiest day of the year.”
Papoulakos tells 8News that for Vogue Flowers, Valentine’s Day tends to be even busier than Mother’s Day. In one day, the market can make up to 1,500 deliveries. But because of the Saturday closure, the business stopped accepting orders, and all orders that had already been placed were pushed to Sunday for delivery.
“Normally, we do most of the deliveries the day before, and whatever’s leftover, we just have the flexibility, the east to complete everything in a timely manner,” Papoulakos said. “Because of the weather, we played it safe. All the drivers were back early. We did not want to jeopardize having anyone out late.”
Each Valentine’s Day, Vogue Flowers hires approximately 40 additional delivery drivers to keep up with the increased demand. With the extra staffing already in place, drivers were sent out only on Sunday.
But even as the ice melted, the challenges persisted.
“We encountered many, many multiple issues with the roads being a little slippery,” Papoulakos said. “Many places we were delivering to had lost power. People were not home. Trying to locate where the people were became difficult several times, and so we tried to call senders to see if we could leave the flowers at somebody’s home.”
With power lines down, the staff at Vogue Flowers had difficulties reaching customers to complete their deliveries. In some cases, Papoulakos says, flowers could be left outside, if the delivery driver was able to confirm that someone would be home soon.
“We couldn’t leave any tropical plants out, but we could leave flowers,” he said. “As long as the temperature did not drop below 32 degrees, it was safe.”
While Papoulakos says Vogue Flowers encountered more issues than normal, For The Love of Chocolate actually extended its hours to keep up with the demand ahead of Valentine’s Day.
Owner Elizabeth Vranas tells 8News that there was no slowdown in foot traffic Saturday or Sunday, despite the ice storm outside. The Carytown candy store stayed open until 7 p.m. Sunday to make sure drivers and pedestrians willing to brave the weather could pick up their last-minute Valentine’s Day treats.