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Valentine’s day petal power pushes sales at Irish Gardens

Tae Andrews | Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Irish Gardens general manager Ann Marie Szymanski says she enjoys watching romance bloom on campus almost as much as she loves flowers. “Every employee has a cute story from Irish Gardens,” she said. “It’s kind of the beauty of working there.”

Tales from the shop, located in the basement of LaFortune Student Center, range from feel-good affairs to romantic comedy.

One such story occurred one day when a graduate student walked into Irish Gardens around closing time and purchased seven red roses. When Szymanski inquired as to why he bought seven, an unusual number in the floral industry, the man answered that he was giving the odd number of flowers to his wife to commemorate his baby daughter having slept through the night for the first time since she was born. The infant slept seven hours in a row.

On another occasion, a man entered the store and asked Szymanski, “Which types of flowers say that you’re sorry?” With her advice, the man settled on five Casablanca lilies in a vase. Within the next half hour the same man returned and began plucking more flowers for purchase. After Szymanski asked him what had happened, the man replied only, “I’ve made someone else mad.”

Stories such as these, Szymanski said, have made her three-year career at Irish Gardens worthwhile.

As general manager, her responsibilities include overseeing the accounting of the shop, ordering the necessary supplies and flowers, designing and procuring advertisement and putting together bouquets. Financial manager Megan Julien and products manager Sarah Snyder round out the Irish Gardens management trio. “They are both a huge help to me,” Szymanski said. Julien and Snyder assist in accounting, ordering flowers and designing bouquets. Like Szymanski, Julien has worked at Irish Gardens for the past three years, while Snyder has worked for Irish Gardens for two years.

Szymanski said Irish Gardens normally pulls in around $100 a day. The student-run business anticipates a $6,000 take for the four weekdays through Valentine’s Day on Thursday. “That is what it has been around in the past,” she said. On Monday alone, Valentine’s Day pre-orders amounted to $2,000 dollars, more than 20 times the typical take on an average day. In preparation for the big day, Szymanski said the company ordered over 3,000 roses, 400 carnations, 350 Gerber daisies and more than 400 other types of flowers.

Three flower arrangements have separated themselves from the rest of the field as Irish Gardens’ most popular bouquets. Szymanski describes “The Whole Twelve Yards” as “your classic dozen roses in any color you choose.” Petal purchasers can choose from red, orange, peach, white, hot pink, light pink, lavender, yellow and “fire and ice” as their colors. “The Girl Next Door” features five large Gerber daisies in bright colors. “The Classic Romantic” bouquet includes a stargazer lily, stock, roses and spray roses. “It’s a very elegant bouquet,” she said, while noting that “Romantic” is her favorite arrangement.

During her time at Irish Gardens, Szymanski has noticed a pattern among male customers. The stereotypical “nervous male,” as she calls him, will approach the cases of flowers inside Irish Gardens’ shop in the basement of the LaFortune Student Center, stare at them for a couple of minutes and then turn “with a look of panic in [his] eyes seeking help.”

“This is when our employees swoop in with tons of suggestions,” she said.

“Most boys just know that red roses demonstrate too much commitment and that they are definitely looking for something more tentative,” she said. For this reason, the Irish Gardens staff created a suggestion booklet offering a list of 11 pre-designed bouquets to “remove a lot of the guesswork.”

For young men trying to “say it with flowers,” Irish Gardens offers a plethora of flora with which potential suitors can express themselves, including Gerber daisies, yellow roses and alstromeria. These flowers are tailor-made for situations “where the boy likes the girl but doesn’t know exactly how to show it,” Szymanski said.

Bouquet business figures to remain busy between today and tomorrow for the one-stop flower shop.